CARS.COM — Three Hyundai models have earned top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the features required for the accolade come only on top trim levels. The 2018 Santa Fe Sport SUV plus two hatchbacks — the 2017 Ioniq Hybrid and 2018 Elantra GT — garnered the agency's highest award, Top Safety Pick Plus, with top scores in five crash tests plus sufficient ratings in IIHS' evaluation of headlights and front crash prevention technology.
All three cars earned good scores (out of poor, marginal, acceptable and good) in the agency's crash tests. The Elantra GT and Ioniq Hybrid earned good scores in IIHS' headlight evaluation; the Santa Fe Sport earned an acceptable score, which still falls within the confines of the Plus designation. All three earned superior scores — out of none, basic, advanced and superior — in the agency's evaluation of front crash prevention systems, which include forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
That said, many — if not most — examples of each car lack the features to qualify for the award. To get a Plus-rated car, you'd have to buy the top trim level for each model with options packages; the Ioniq Hybrid adds an assembly timeframe, too. Here's the breakdown of headlight and front crash prevention technology necessary for the designation:
- Elantra GT: The GT Sport trim level — the higher of two trims — plus a Sport Tech Package gets the well-rated front crash prevention and acceptable-rated headlights. Lesser versions have marginal or poor-rated lights and no front crash prevention.
- Ioniq Hybrid: The Limited trim level — the highest of three trims — plus the Ultimate Package on a car built in June 2017 or later (a doorframe sticker typically indicates the month of assembly) gets well-rated front crash prevention and acceptable-rated headlights. Short of that equipment or period of assembly, the Ioniq Hybrid has poor-rated headlights, no front crash prevention or both.
- Santa Fe Sport: The 2.0T Ultimate trim level — the highest of three trims — plus the Ultimate Tech Package gets good-rated headlights and well-rated front crash prevention. Lesser versions lack the front crash prevention and have acceptable or poor-rated lights.
Of note: The 2018 Santa Fe Sport ratings don't apply to the 2018 Santa Fe (non-Sport). IIHS tested the latter SUV separately, though it's related to the Santa Fe Sport. Kim Stewart, a senior editor at the agency, told us IIHS is waiting to confer those ratings on the 2018 Santa Fe until Hyundai confirms headlight availability for the new model year.
Ratings for the 2018 Ioniq Hybrid, meanwhile, do not apply to plug-in hybrid or fully electric versions of the Ioniq, both of which have higher-capacity batteries.
"We test the hybrids and the electrics — we view those as separate because there is a weight difference with the battery packs," Stewart said. As of this writing, IIHS has yet to publish crash tests for either variant.
2018 Status TBD
It remains to be seen if the Elantra GT, Santa Fe Sport and Ioniq Hybrid will pass IIHS' passenger-side small overlap test to maintain TSPP status for 2018. The new test, a requirement for TSPP awards beginning in 2018, mirrors the agency's small overlap test on the driver's side, where the vehicle's front corner hits a barrier that overlaps just a small portion of the front.
"Hyundai has submitted passenger-side small overlap verification data for the Santa Fe and the Ioniq," Stewart said, confirming that IIHS will have results in time for its transition to 2018 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus awards in December.
But, she added, the agency is "still going through" Hyundai's data to determine how the two cars will fare in the new evaluation.
IIHS will publish a verdict next month on both cars, but Stewart said passenger-side data is still missing for the Elantra GT. Its status for 2018 could take longer to determine.
Not All Cars Retested
The agency subjected more than a dozen cars to the new test earlier this year, but for models that earned a good score on the driver's-side small overlap test — something most cars tested now do — IIHS only requires data from each automaker, not necessarily a new crash test.
Still, the data is extensive. The agency requests "all components that we would collect in a test conducted at our facility," said Becky Mueller, a senior researcher at IIHS.
Much of the information shared is confidential and unpublished, but it's "reviewed as if it was our test," Mueller wrote in an email.
"This includes high-speed videos proving the test conditions and occupant motion, data plots showing the dummy sensors for all body regions receiving a rating, extra photos demonstrating any contacts and damage relevant to the assessment and measures of occupant compartment intrusion," she said.
IIHS performs random audits — that is, its own crash tests — on about 10 percent of the verification tests it receives, she added.
Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.