Toyota SUV Takes Top Honors

The results are in and one small class SUV has come out on top. The 2004 Toyota RAV 4 was recently rated a "best pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in both front and side impact tests.

It's the first time any vehicle has gained that recognition in both categories.

With dozens of makes and models to choose from these days, picking out your next car can be a chore.

"We've been looking for quite some time," said car shopper Matt Sonnenberg. "(My wife) wanted an SUV, but it's so hard to find one that gets good gas mileage and is safe."

For the Sonnenbergs, style comes in just behind gas mileage and cost, but as a young couple, safety is moving up on the list.

"Starting a family, it's something that I've never thought about before but it's really starting to come into play now."

Improvements to Toyota's RAV4 this model year has made it one of the safest vehicles on the road. In frontal crashes, a stronger frame means both the driver and the front-seat passenger would receive minimal injuries. But that's not all. The biggest change was on the side.

An option on the new model gives drivers side impact air bags.  In tests, those airbags dramatically reduced the chances for head and neck injuries. For the Sonnenbergs, those positive results may just have made buying a new car a little easier.

"It makes me feel safer this being her vehicle instead of mine it makes me feel a lot better with her driving it."

Side air bags don't come standard on the RAV4. Those will cost you an additional $680.

This is the second year the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested both front and side impacts on small SUVs.

For more info
RAV4 Rating

Chris Gibson, reporting