2011 BMW 5 Series frontal crash test
Click above for safety ratings of all 30 vehicles tested under NHTSA's new crash test rating system

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would be revising its well known five-star crash test rating system for 2011 model year vehicles. This new series of tests, called the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) makes it more difficult for manufacturers' vehicles to achieve the administration's prestigious five-star safety rating, which they had been doing a bit too easily in recent years. Also, the latest round of new safety technologies – collision warning, lane departure warning, etc. – are now being tested, and a new pole side crash test has been added to the gauntlet that also includes old favorites like the frontal barrier, side barrier and rollover tests. Finally, NCAP gives vehicles an overall rating that combines their star ratings in each of the three major categories (front, side and rollover), which makes marketing the results much easier for automakers whose vehicles score well.

Since the announcement earlier this year, NHTSA has been busy testing some 30 vehicles using NCAP and released its results this morning. The full results are available after the jump, but it should be noted that these new ratings are not comparable with ratings for any 2010-11 model year vehicles rated using the old system.

2011 Nissan Versa pole crash testBecause the NCAP is more rigorous than the prior system, most of the 30 vehicles tested have seen their star ratings drop. In fact, the only two 2011 models to retain five-star safety ratings are the BMW 5 Series and Hyundai Sonata, and the latter only after Hyundai tweaked the sedan and resubmitted it for testing. While most vehicles tested using NCAP returned four-star overall ratings, the Toyota Camry, which was essentially a five-star vehicle for the 2010 model year (it scored only one four-star rating that year in the rollover test), only managed an overall rating of three stars under the new system. Below that, the compact Nissan Versa (at right in the middle of earning just two stars in the side pole test) earned an overall rating of only two stars after the 2010 model had earned four stars across the board.

NHTSA has also redesigned the safercar.gov website to make these new ratings easier to research and analyze. Each vehicle's page is clearly laid out and all of the crash test results are explained clearly and accompanied with video of each particular test. The new ratings will start to appear on vehicle window stickers soon, but only the 33 models tested, and NHTSA says its working to have 60 models finished testing by year's end.

Check out results for the whole lot of re-tested cars after the jump in the official chart released by NHTSA. We've also included the agency's press release for a few more details about the new crash test rating system that automakers are no doubt scrambling to ace as we speak.

[Sources: NHTSA, USA Today]


New NHTSA Safety Ratings
New NHTSA safety ratings – Click to expand


Show full PR text
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Rolls Out
Upgraded 5-Star Vehicle Safety Ratings System


WASHINGTON -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland today unveiled an enhanced 5-Star Safety Ratings System for new vehicles and released the safety ratings for the first model year 2011 vehicles tested under the program. The upgraded ratings system will now evaluate side pole crash testing and crash prevention-technologies. And, for the first time, it will use female crash test dummies to simulate crash scenarios involving women, not just men.

"More stars equal safer cars," said Secretary LaHood. "With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we're raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers."

Vehicle safety ratings range from 1 to 5 stars, with 1 star being the lowest and 5 stars the highest. Because so many vehicles had reached the highest rating under the old rating criteria, and because the new standards are much more rigorous, not all previously rated 5-star vehicles will remain at 5 stars.

The new 5-Star Safety Ratings System evaluates the safety of passenger cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks in three broad areas – frontal crash, side crash, and rollover resistance. For model year 2011, NHTSA will rate 24 passenger cars, 20 sport utility vehicles, two vans and nine pickups under the new ratings system.

"We want consumers to embrace these new safety technologies as a way to make vehicles safer," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland. "We believe electronic stability control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning offer significant safety benefits and consumers should consider them when buying a new car."

One of the most significant changes to the ratings program for consumers is the addition of an Overall Vehicle Score for each vehicle tested. The Overall Vehicle Score combines the results of a frontal crash test, side crash tests and rollover resistance tests and compares those results to the average risk of injury and potential for vehicle rollover of other vehicles.

NHTSA recommends consumers consider vehicles with crash avoidance technologies that meet the 5-Star Safety Ratings minimum performance tests, such as forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), and electronic stability control (ESC). All of the 2011 model year vehicles currently rated have ESC as standard, except for the Nissan Versa, in which it is optional.

More information, including the full list of newly-rated vehicles is available at the official website for the Federal government's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, www.safercar.gov. At Safercar.gov, consumers can also find comprehensive information about safe driving, vehicle defects, safety recalls, and passenger safety.