updated 3/16/2006 4:52:09 PM ET 2006-03-16T21:52:09

Seven sport utility vehicles earned the government’s highest ratings in providing protection in front-end and side crashes, according to test results released Thursday.

The 2006 models of the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Tucson, Mercedes Benz ML-class, Nissan Murano and Subaru B9 Tribeca received five stars in frontal and side impact crash tests for both the driver’s and passenger’s side.

The 2007 model of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which is already in showrooms and has a similar structure to the Explorer, also received five stars in the two crash categories. One pickup truck, the four-door 2006 Toyota Tacoma, received top scores in the two crash tests.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new crash test and rollover ratings for 44 sedans, SUVs and pickups and vans. Most of the vehicles received either four or five stars on frontal and side crashes on a scale of one to five stars.

Other vehicles from the 2006 model year earning five stars in both seating positions for frontal crashes include: Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Honda Civic, Buick Lucerne, Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Civic, Hyundai Accent, Lexus ES330, Chevrolet HHR, Ford Expedition, Jeep Commander, Chevrolet Express, Chevrolet Uplander, Dodge Caravan, Kia Sedona and Chevrolet Colorado.

The 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, which has been on sale since January, received five stars on frontal crashes.

In front-end tests, five stars equals a 10 percent or less chance of serious injury and four stars estimates an 11 percent to 20 percent chance of serious injury. The government’s frontal tests are conducted at 35 mph.

In side-impact tests, conducted at 38.5 mph, the Kia Sorento, Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota RAV4 received five stars in both seating positions.

Only three 2006 vehicles — Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac G6 and Hyundai Accent — received three stars in side testing. Monte Carlo and G6 versions were tested without optional side air bags. The Accent has side-curtain air bags standard.

NHTSA estimates an 11 percent to 20 percent chance of injury for vehicles scoring three stars in side testing.

None of the SUVs or pickups tested received five stars in rollover testing. Those receiving four stars include: Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, Ford Expedition, Hyundai Tucson, Mercedes Benz ML-Class, Nissan Murano, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Colorado, and Nissan Frontier 2-door.

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