The 2012 VW Passat is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named 115 vehicles 2012 Top Safety Picks. The Institute says a record number of 38 SUVs, 69 cars, five minivans and three pickup trucks earned the top award this year. When Top Safety Pick awards began in 2005, there were just 11 winners. That number has grown by more than 10 times.

To achieve Top Safety Pick status, a vehicle must earn the top score of “Good” in front, side, rollover and rear tests. Previously, the IIHS required that all models have standard electronic stability control, but now that the federal government requires it on all 2012 and newer vehicles, ESC is no longer a ticket to Top Safety Pick status.

This year, 18 vehicles are new IIHS Top Safety Picks. The remaining 97 received the award last year.

The IIHS recognizes Honda and Acura for comprising the majority of the new additions. “Honda/Acura deserves credit for most-improved status," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. "The automaker buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection. Now, the automaker has winners in the minicar, small car, midsize car, small SUV, midsize SUV, minivan, and large pickup categories." The Honda Fit, Accord, Acura TSX and the redesigned Honda CR-V are among the Honda/Acura award winners.

Other notable winners include the Toyota Camry and Toyota Yaris, both of which missed the mark in 2011 for receiving low scores for either roof strength or head restraints. The all-new Buick Verano is also a Top Safety Pick.

As you shop for a new car, let these Top Safety Picks guide your research. “The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection,” writes the IIHS. For a full list of the 2012 Top Safety Picks, visit the IIHS’ website.

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