Photos and video courtesy IIHS

In the past, Subaru has talked up its “symmetrical” all-wheel drive system for the added control it provides in slippery conditions and the advantage it provides over two-wheel drive vehicles. It’s an excellent system, but with AWD now commonplace in vehicles across price, size and body style classes, Subaru has lost some of the marketing traction it once enjoyed by making AWD standard in most of its lineup.

The Japanese automaker can rest easy, however, as it has another more significant honour on which to hang its corporate hat: it is the only automaker to have all of its models recognized as Top Safety Picks by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Even more significant is that while the IIHS has recognized Subarus as some of the safest vehicles on the road since 2010, its models maintained Top Safety Pick status even after the organization began conducting its more rigorous small-overlap frontal crash test in 2012.

We’ll get into that test in more detail in a separate article about the IIHS’ test procedures, which we got to see in person when Subaru took us on a tour of the IIHS facility last month. Simply put, the small-overlap test puts a lot of stress on a vehicle’s structure: of 13 small SUVs put through the new test in 2014, 11 were rated ‘marginal’ or ‘poor’ in overall occupant protection. The Forester (which was redesigned for 2014) earned the only ‘good’ rating, while the Mitsubishi Outlander’s performance was deemed ‘acceptable.’

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