Toyota Prius v earned the top score among midsize cars tested
For the first time, the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has begun issuing safety ratings for headlights. In the first batch of vehicles tested, only one car managed to earn a “Good” score in the headlight evaluation.
The agency tested 31 midsize cars, and only the Toyota Prius v earned top marks. A notch below, 11 cars including the Honda Accord sedan and Audi A3 were rated “Acceptable.” Nine vehicles scored “Marginal” for their headlights, including popular models like the BMW 3 Series and Toyota Camry. Ten vehicles — including the Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Malibu, and Mercedes C-Class — earned “Poor” ratings. Keep in mind these ratings take into account the best available headlight systems for each model. Here’s the full list according to IIHS:
Good: Toyota Prius v
On a test track, IIHS evaluates the headlights from multiple approach angles, including a sharp left curve, sharp right curve, gradual left curve, gradual right curve, and straight-on. The agency takes care to measure glare in its evaluation, and issues separate scores for low beams and high beams. It weighs results for low beams more heavily because drivers use them more often than high beams. Vehicles may score extra points if they offer high beam assist technology, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on surrounding conditions.
But the ratings above don’t paint the entire picture. IIHS is scoring every possible headlight combination that is available on the cars, so different trims of the same car can vary widely in lighting performance. While the Prius v comes available with different headlight options, it specifically earns a “Good” rating when equipped with LED lights and high beam assist. To get this equipment, drivers must opt for the advanced tech package. When equipped with regular halogen lights and no high beam assist, the Prius v actually gets a “Poor” rating.
While technology can make a difference, IIHS stresses that a more expensive vehicle doesn’t necessarily earn a better rating. BMW 3 Series cars equipped with halogen lights scored the very worst in its tests. Drivers with those headlights have to travel 35 mph (56 km/h) or slower in order to stop in time for an obstacle, the agency notes.
“If you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, in a statement. Although there’s room for improvement on most headlight systems, IIHS says there’s one thing drivers can do to immediately improve visibility: turn on the high beams.