• Sep 14th 2006 at 9:02AM
  • 9
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has wrapped up its latest round of clinical crashing and, as is customary, improvements were seen on newer models, while older vehicles didn't fare quite as well.

Toyota's FJ Cruiser scored a 'good' rating due to its optional side-curtain airbags, with minimal intrusion into the passenger compartment. Joining the FJ Cruiser in the mid-size SUV category was the Ford Freestyle, which also received a 'good' score due to side-curtain airbags, but the IIHS noted that the Freestyle's structure didn't hold up as well as expected.

The Ford Fusion and Crown Victoria had the opportunity to redeem themselves after earlier evaluations ranked both vehicles as 'poor' when struck with the IIHS' movable barrier. The Fusion added side-curtain airbags and brought its score up to 'acceptable', while the Crown Vic, also equipped with side-curtain airbags, increased its score to 'marginal.'

The full report can be viewed after the jump.


New side crash tests: performance of two Fords improves with side airbags

ARLINGTON, VA -The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently tested four 2007 model vehicles with side airbags: Toyota FJ Cruiser and Ford Freestyle (midsize SUVs); Ford Fusion (midsize moderately priced car) and Ford Crown Victoria (large family car). The FJ Cruiser and Freestyle earn good ratings for protection in side crashes. The Fusion is rated acceptable, and the Crown Victoria is marginal. Side airbags are optional in the FJ Cruiser and Crown Victoria. The Fusion has been upgraded to standard side airbags for the 2007 model year. The Freestyle will have standard side airbags in 2007s built after September.

"We commend Ford for making side airbags standard in the Fusion and Freestyle," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "A few years ago, it was rare to find these standard in moderately priced family vehicles, but they're quickly becoming the norm."

The tests were conducted outside of the Institute's normal schedule at the request of the manufacturers. Tests of the Crown Victoria and Fusion update earlier tests of these vehicles without side airbags.

"Manufacturers may request a test because they've made changes to improve a vehicle's performance or they have a new vehicle they think will earn a good rating," Lund explains. "We encourage these requests because it means manufacturers are striving to make their vehicles safer, and we can get the results out to consumers earlier. When we do conduct tests early the manufacturers provide reimbursement for the cost of the vehicles."

Summary of test results: The FJ Cruiser with optional side airbags earned a good rating. Intrusion into the occupant compartment was minimal. Performance in all categories (dummy injury measures, head protection, and structure) was good across the board.

"A perfect score," Lund points out.

The Freestyle's structure didn't perform quite as well, but this vehicle is rated good overall. The dummies' heads were protected from hitting any hard structures by side curtain-style airbags that deploy from above the windows.

Both the Fusion and Crown Victoria (also sold by Mercury as the Milan and Grand Marquis) with side airbags improved compared with the poor ratings earned by 2006 models tested without side airbags. In the new test of the Fusion, head protection was good but measures recorded on the driver dummy indicated that a fracture of the pelvis would be possible in a crash of this severity. The Fusion with side airbags earned an overall rating of acceptable for side impact protection. In the Crown Victoria, head protection also improved, but this car is rated marginal because of high forces recorded on the driver dummy's pelvis and poor structural performance. (Note: These ratings do not apply to 2006 models equipped with optional side airbags. Ford changed the side airbags, door structure, and interior trim of 2007 Fusions and the side airbags and interior trim of 2007 Crown Victorias to improve occupant protection in side impacts.)

How vehicles are evaluated: Each vehicle's overall side evaluation is based on performance in a crash test in which the side of the vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, both representing a small woman or preteen; assessment of head protection countermeasures; and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact. Injury measures obtained from the two dummies, one in the driver seat and the other in the rear seat behind the driver, are used to determine the likelihood that the driver and/or passenger in a real-world crash would have sustained serious injury to various body regions. The movements and contacts of the dummies' heads during the crash also are evaluated. Structural performance is based on measurements indicating the amount of B-pillar intrusion into the occupant compartment.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      I'm disappointed in the Fusion's front end and side impact rating of "acceptable". "Acceptable" is not a selling point to me. Get it right, Ford!
      • 9 Years Ago
      ThoughtCrime, IIHS get their own vehicles to test off the dealers lots. If manufacturers asked for retest, then it will conduct additional tests at the manufacturer's cost. Manufacturer do not supply IIHS for their initial round of test for standard vehicles. Check under the FAQ section of their website. They buy the vehicles off the dealers lots.

      This one seemed a little odd that FJ was not tested without airbags.
      • 9 Years Ago
      "Toyota's FJ Cruiser scored a 'good' rating due to its optional side-curtain airbags"

      Did they test the FJ without the optional side airbags like they made a point of doing with the Fusion?
      • 9 Years Ago
      I figured I'd go look for myself at their website, but their vehicle ratings area is not functioning.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Their site now works for me. I looked at the FJ, which was ONLY tested WITH optional side airbags. Yet the Fusion was initially tested without the side airbags.

      Why isn't the IIHS following their own guidelines and policies here?

      Considering that a lot of people are looking at these safety ratings and that the manufacturers tout them, it seems like an unfair advantage for the FJ to only be tested with optional equipment.
      • 9 Years Ago
      uh, I meant "unlimited". Not that I'm saying the NHTSA has unlimited funds either... maybe I should just take that sentence out.
      • 9 Years Ago
      2. Note: When side airbags are optional, the Institute tests without the option and will conduct a second test with the optional airbags if a manufacturer requests it and reimburses the Institute for the cost of the vehicle.

      Wrong - Because ford did not supply them with a vehicle they tested the cheapest fusion they could buy, which was one without side airbags at the time. Now that the side airbags are standard they had to retest. No cost to Ford.
      • 9 Years Ago
      #6 explains it.
      This is a nongovernment institution, and they do not have limited funds. IIHS has to spend money, to buy cars to destroy.

      When car companies give the IIHS FREE cars to destroy, that is the preferable model to test, because it's free.
      The Ford Fusion was tested without, because Ford failed to provide a FREE Fusion for the IIHS to test initially.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Note: When side airbags are optional, the Institute tests without the option and will conduct a second test with the optional airbags if a manufacturer requests it and reimburses the Institute for the cost of the vehicle.