When all the automakers begin passing really stringent crash tests with flying colors, the next logical move is to find even more obscure tests that will inevitably force them to make even safer cars. Arbitrary as it may seem, it’s one of the ways the independent Insurance Institute of Highway Safety keeps automakers on their toes.
The latest test is the small front overlap, which places just a fraction of the front end with the brunt of a full-force impact. It’s made automakers sweat the details a little more. And some have done a little better than others.
The IIHS tested 18 vehicles, and only two scored the organization’s “Good” rating: the redesigned 2013 Honda Accord and the not-long-for-this-world 2013 Suzuki Kizashi. The Accord has garnered wide praise since its introduction, and the Kizashi has been a media darling since its 2008 introduction but largely unloved and unnoticed everywhere else. No matter, as Suzuki has declared bankruptcy and is planning to liquidate its inventory. This may be a good car to pick up if you can score one on the cheap. Along with 11 other cars, they’ll be listed as Top Safety Pick+ choices.
Then in the most recent test there were 11 cars that didn’t do quite as well, but you’d be okay with any of them, earning an “Acceptable” rating:
Honda Accord coupe
Nissan Altima sedan
Three earned “Marginal” ratings:
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
And, for a shocker, both the Toyota Camry and Prius V earned “Poor” ratings.
While nearly all of the above listed vehicles have earned Top Safety Pick ratings in the past, the newly instated 2012 small front overlap test has begun weeding out the pack. Oftentimes, automakers will revise the structure of their car midway through its model life to make it perform better, as consumers rightfully look at safety ratings when preparing to purchase a new vehicle.
Surprisingly to note, Toyota often does well in crash evaluations but obviously wasn’t taking the new test into account when it designed its new car. Toyota had this to say in a statement released today:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests which go beyond federal requirements. With this new test, the Institute has raised the bar again, and we will respond to the challenge. We are evaluating the new test protocols and can say that there will not be one single solution to achieve greater crash performance in this area.
Toyota has 19 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models named 2012 IIHS “Top Safety Picks,” including the Camry and Prius v, more than any other automaker. We’re also proud of the Camry’s 5 Star Safety rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
Toyota noted that the Prius V has not yet been tested by the NHTSA.
Another surprise included the fact that the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima share much of the same structure, but it looks like their engineers parsed together enough changes that it made a difference in evaluations. Lastly, it’s surprising that any car that came out as an all-new model in 2012–the Chevrolet Malibu included alongside the Camry and Prius V–would score a low rating. The IIHS announced its new test in 2009, giving automakers plenty of time to make their vehicles safer.
A vehicle that came out all-new in 2011 might not have had the time to undergo any changes, as its design was locked into place years ago. But a new car only takes three years to reach the market. There’s really no excuse for any of them to perform too poorly, even if it is an all-new test.
By Jacob Brown