The Ford Fusion midsized sedan, introduced last fall, earned an "Acceptable" rating in front crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While that is the second-best possible rating, only one other midsize car design currently on the market failed to get the top "Good" rating in the IIHS front-offset crash test.

Crash test ratings for the Fusion and six other midsize sedans were released today by the Institute. Other cars for which results were released today were the Hyundai Sonata, Pontiac G6, Acura TSX, BMW 3-series, Infiniti G35, and Lexus IS.

"The Fusion is a disappointment because it's a brand new design," said Adrian Lund, president of the Institute, in an announcement. "Ford has done a good job with some other recent models, but the Fusion is at the back of the pack among midsize sedans for overall safety performance."

In the Institute's front-offset crash test, in which the vehicle strikes a barrier with just part of its front bumper at 40 miles per hour, a metal pin in the dummy's ankle was broken.

"We were surprised by that result," said Daniel Jarvis, a Ford spokesman. "We did not see it in our own internal testing. We plan to ask for a retest."

The Fusion also earned a rating of "Poor," the worst possible, in the Insurance Institute's side impact test. The Fusion was tested without optional side impact airbags. For vehicles of the Fusion's size without head-protecting side airbags installed, "Poor" ratings in this test are not unusual.

The Insurance Institute tests side impact safety using a device that mimics the effect of an SUV or large pick-up truck striking the vehicle at 31 miles an hour. The impact is higher on the vehicle's body than it is in a similar test conducted by the federal government. For that reason, vehicles without side airbags designed to protect occupants' heads generally do not do well.

If head-protecting side airbags are optional, the Institute's policy is to test the vehicle without them and to re-test the vehicle with them installed if the manufacturer requests the test and pays for the additional vehicle.

Ford has requested that the Fusion be retested with side impact airbags installed. Side airbags will become standard equipment on the Fusion this fall, said Ford spokesman Jarvis.

Sonata does well after recall

The Hyundai Sonata earned a rating of "Good" in its second front-offset crash test after the first test revealed a problem requiring a recall.

In the Institute's first test on the Sonata, the car's seatbelt became caught under the seatback adjustment lever. That apparently caused the seatback to come loose in the crash. Hyundai engineers redesigned the lever and the company recalled cars with the original lever design to fix the problem.

When tested with the new lever, the Sonata earned a "Good" rating for front-crash protection.

The Sonata, which has standard side-impact airbags, earned an "Acceptable" rating for side impact protection. The Sonata was redesigned for the 2005 model year. The previous version of the Sonata had earned a "Poor" rating for side impact protection.

Top safety picks

In this most recent round of testing, the BMW 3-series and the Lexus IS earned "Top Safety Pick" designations from the Institute as a result of these tests. To be called a "Top Safety Pick." vehicles must earn "Good" ratings in both front and side impact crash tests and be rated "Good" or "Acceptable" for neck-injury protection in rear impacts. Both cars earned "Silver Top Safety Pick" designations, meaning they were deemed "Acceptable" for rear impact neck-injury protection.

IIHS new midsized car safety rating:

Acura TSX -- Front: Good / Side: Acceptable / Rear: Poor

BMW 3-series -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan -- Front: Acceptable / Side: Poor / Rear: Marginal (Front crash retest requested, side crash test requested with side airbags)

Hyundai Sonata -- Front: Good / Side: Acceptable / Rear: Good

Infiniti G35 -- Front: Good / Side: Acceptable / Rear: Poor

Lexus IS -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Pontiac G6 -- Front: Good / Side: Poor / Rear: Marginal (without optional side airbags)

Pontiac G6 -- Front: Good / Side: Acceptable / Rear: Marginal (with optional side airbags)

Midsized cars: IIHS Top Safety Picks

Gold Top Safety Pick

Saab 9-3 -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Good

Subaru Legacy -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Good

Silver Top Safety Picks

Audi A3 -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Audi A4 -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

BMW 3-series -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Chevrolet Malibu -- (with optional side airbags) Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Lexus IS -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Volkswagen Jetta -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable

Volkswagen Passat -- Front: Good / Side: Good / Rear: Acceptable


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