Crash tests continue to get ever tougher, and the new "small overlap" test from the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety is giving engineers fits. The new procedure, launched in August, subjects just 25 percent of a vehicle's front end to an impact at 40 miles per hour, and it's proven to be a lot tougher to ace than the institute's old 40-percent overlap test, which is also still in use. The test is designed to simulate impact with a pole, tree or an offset other vehicle – all common crash scenarios.

In its initial round of tests, the IIHS found just three of 11 midsize luxury and near-premium cars up to the job of earning acceptable or good ratings. In this latest go around, the IIHS subjected 18 midsize family sedans to the test, with two earning good ratings, 11 earning acceptable scores, three netting marginal and two suffering poor marks. Of those tested, the Honda Accord and Suzuki Kizashi earned top marks.

Interestingly enough, the IIHS has gone out of its way to highlight the poor performances by the Toyota automobiles it tested. The Camry and Prius V were both called out for poor performances in the small overlap, deeming them "the worst performers of the midsize group." This, despite the fact that both models were new for 2012. Interestingly, both vehicles previously earned Top Safety Pick status, showing just how tough the new small overlap test really is.

IIHS also called out the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta for a poor performance, noting that its driver airbag module actually detached from the steering column during the crash test. The IIHS notes that the detachment occurred "relatively late in the crash and didn't affect the dummy's movement," but it still marked down the Volkswagen as a result.

For a complete list of the vehicles tested and their scores, see the official press release and a video of the test below.



Show full PR text

Family cars outperform luxury models in rigorous new crash test;
strong performance earns 13 midsize cars highest safety accolade



ARLINGTON, Va. - A group of moderately priced midsize cars outperformed most of their luxury counterparts in a challenging new frontal crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on 2013 models. Of the 18 midsize family cars evaluated in the small overlap test, two earn the top rating of good, 11 earn acceptable, three earn marginal, and two are poor.

In contrast, just 3 of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated in the inaugural round of small overlap tests earned good or acceptable ratings. Midsize moderately priced cars are the second group to be tested. The best performers in this group are the Honda Accord 4-door and Suzuki Kizashi. Both earn a good rating.

Building on its long-running vehicle ratings program for consumer information, IIHS introduced the small overlap test in 2012 to further improve occupant protection in frontal crashes. Most automakers design their vehicles for good performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal test and the federal government's full-width frontal test, but many haven't addressed the problem of small overlap crashes. In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a car's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

"It's remarkable that this group of midsize family cars did so much better than the midsize luxury car group," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. "The difference is stunning. Thirteen of these midsize cars offer better crash protection than all but three of their luxury counterparts, and at a price that's easier on the wallet."

New safety award

To reward 2013 models with superior crash protection, IIHS has created the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, with the + indicating good or acceptable performance in the new small overlap test. TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least 4 of 5 evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact and rollover, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

So far, 13 models qualify for the accolade. Winners include: the Dodge Avenger and its twin, the Chrysler 200 4-door; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord 2-door; Honda Accord 4-door; Kia Optima; Nissan Altima 4-door; Subaru Legacy and its twin, the Subaru Outback; Suzuki Kizashi and Volkswagen Passat. Two previously tested luxury models, the Acura TL and Volvo S60, also earn TOP SAFETY PICK+. IIHS will announce additional winners as it continues to test models. Results for small SUVs are expected in the spring.

Meanwhile, 117 additional vehicles earn TOP SAFETY PICK for 2013. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must have good ratings for occupant protection in the moderate overlap frontal test, side impact, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their small overlap rating. IIHS first gave the TOP SAFETY PICK award to 2006 models and has tightened criteria twice since then. Good rear test results and availability of electronic stability control became a requirement starting with 2007 models, and a good roof strength rating became a deciding factor for the 2010 model year. Stability control is no longer a separate requirement since all 2012 and later vehicles must have the feature as standard under federal rules.

IIHS gives manufacturers advance notice of planned changes. Automakers in the past have been quick to factor new IIHS evaluations into their designs, and many are on track to do the same with the introduction of the small overlap test and TOP SAFETY PICK+.

"We've seen automakers make structural and restraint changes in response to our small overlap test," Lund says. "Five manufacturers redesigned their midsize cars to enhance small overlap crash protection."

Honda engineered both versions of the Accord to do well in the test. Ford and Nissan made running structural changes to 2013 models already in production. Subaru and Volkswagen changed airbag control modules on the production line so side curtain airbags would deploy for improved head protection.

Toyota falls short

Shoppers looking for a midprice family car will recognize some perennial bestsellers on the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners' list, including the Accord, Altima and Fusion.

One nameplate they won't find is Toyota. The Camry, which is the top-selling midsize car in the United States, and the Prius v, a 4-door hybrid wagon, earn poor ratings for small overlap protection and are the worst performers of the midsize group. The Camry was redesigned for 2012, and the Prius v was an all-new model for 2012.

The Camry and Prius v illustrate what can go wrong in a small overlap crash, despite good ratings in IIHS tests that qualify the cars for TOP SAFETY PICK.

Most modern cars have safety cages built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation, and the two Toyotas are no exception. Crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment. The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50 percent of the front end. When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect people inside.

The Suzuki Kizashi (above left) earns a good overall rating and is the only midsize moderately priced car with a good rating for structure. There was only minor intrusion into the occupant compartment. In contrast, survival space for the driver in the Toyota Prius v (above right) was seriously compromised. The side curtain airbag also deployed too late to offer protection. The Prius v earns a poor rating.

For many vehicles, a 25 percent overlap frontal impact misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy and results in crash forces going directly into the wheel, suspension system and firewall. Such crashes often have high levels of occupant compartment intrusion. It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries. Since the impact occurs toward the car's outer edge, the vehicle has a tendency to rotate during the collision, resulting in the driver's head moving outboard, away from the frontal airbag. Real crashes of this type result in head injuries from contact with outboard structures or intruding objects such as trees or poles.

In the Camry, the force of the impact shoved the front wheel back into the footwell, bending the windshield pillar and pushing the parking brake pedal and the left outer edge of the instrument panel rearward into the driver's survival space. Likewise, there was significant intrusion in the Prius v, along with high forces on the dummy's legs and feet. The Prius v is the only car in the midsize test group to earn a poor rating for hip and thigh protection.

The Camry's driver airbag and side curtain airbag deployed, but the steering wheel moved so far to the right that the dummy's head made only minimal contact with the front airbag. The side curtain airbag didn't extend far enough forward to help prevent the dummy's head from hitting the instrument panel. In the Prius v, the side curtain airbag deployed too late in the crash to offer protection.

"Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors," Lund says.

Demanding crash

The small overlap frontal test represents a severe crash. When cars strike the test barrier they tend to move sideways away from it, and the interior structures including the driver door, side window and windshield pillar move in the same direction. The dummy, however, continues forward into the path of the sideways-moving interior structures. At the same time, the steering column and driver airbag move inboard in many vehicles as the front end and occupant compartment deform. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off it, its head and chest are unprotected.

Front airbags are calibrated to deploy in these crashes. Side airbags, especially head-protecting curtains, don't always deploy because they are designed mainly for direct side impacts. When they do deploy, they don't always do so early enough or extend far enough forward to adequately protect people. The result is an airbag gray zone with gaps between what front airbags cover and what side airbags do - if they deploy at all.

Without airbag protection, people in real-world small overlap frontal crashes can sustain head injuries from direct contact with the windshield pillar, dashboard or window sill or by hitting trees, poles or other objects. Chest injuries happen when people contact the steering wheel, door or other intruding structures.

The Accord sedan shows how safety belts and airbags work together to provide exemplary protection. The dummy stayed engaged with the Accord's front airbag, and the steering wheel remained relatively stable because there was only moderate intrusion into the occupant compartment. That meant that the driver airbag was in the right position to cushion the dummy's head and chest. The side curtain airbag extended far enough forward to prevent the dummy's head from hitting interior components.

Every midsize car evaluated earns good ratings for head, neck and chest injury risk based on measurements from dummy sensors. Similar real-world crashes, however, often result in serious upper body injuries. One possible reason for the differing results is that real people move more during a crash and are prone to be out of position at the start, compared with relatively stiff and precisely positioned crash test dummies. Not all drivers are the same size as the dummy or seated the same way. A close call for the dummy could mean an actual injury for a person. Another reason is that the frontal crash dummy IIHS uses in the small overlap test isn't good at measuring risks from lateral forces. Side crash dummies do a better job of this but can't record much of the frontal action in these tests.

"The dummy doesn't always tell us everything," Lund says. "The crash damage in these tests is like the damage we see in real-world crashes where heads and chests are injured."

Unexpected outcomes

In the Jetta test, engineers at the Vehicle Research Center witnessed a first for IIHS crash testing when the driver airbag module detached from the steering column. It happened relatively late in the crash and didn't affect the dummy's movement. Still, airbags should stay in place in crashes, so engineers had to lower the restraints and kinematics score for the marginal-rated Jetta. IIHS isn't aware of a problem with Volkswagen's airbag module in real-world crashes, and Volkswagen is investigating further.

The Kizashi's results also are unique. The car, which Suzuki introduced in the 2010 model year, is the only midsize moderately priced car to earn a good rating for structure in the small overlap test. The Kizashi also earns good ratings in the moderate overlap frontal test, side test and seat/head restraint evaluation. Its roof strength rating, however, is acceptable, so it has never qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK.

"The Kizashi is a rare case. Its good small overlap test performance outweighs its acceptable rollover rating, so the car is a TOP SAFETY PICK+. So far this is the only model we have evaluated to be in this situation," Lund explains. Suzuki Motor Corp. in November said it would stop selling cars in the United States.

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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 212 Comments
      leo
      • 2 Years Ago
      the Prius side airbag did not even deploy until the dummy'd head hit the side and dash and you can see how much smaller the airbags in the toyota are compared the the honda.. it might as well not even have side airbags if they are going to be that small. certainly the Camry has lost it's battle to the Accord and there shoudl be no reason to opt for one over it. shot if you hate honda that just go altima or fusion...just ignore the poor camry so to force toyota to really buckle down and put forward a product that will be worth a look from it's intended buyers.. one more reason to have less camrys on the road
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @leo
        The curtain airbags were originally designed to protect the head against a T-bone collision, where your head could be struck by the taller car (and your own glass window). Honda's curtain airbags were clearly more updated to keep the head protected in other types of collisions such as this test.
      piggybox
      • 2 Years Ago
      That's a big plus for Accord and big minus for Camry
      Famsert
      • 2 Years Ago
      Funny how there's those stereotypes about how safe and solid German cars are yet Audi, BMW, MB, and VW have all done so poorly on this test. The top cars in this test are from Honda, Suzuki, Acura, and Volvo. I need to show my uncle this since he has always talked about how his German cars are built like tanks compared to my new Honda Accord.
        AGSHOP
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Famsert
        they only feel like tanks because of the large use of tons of sound deadening materials. Which make the car quieter and feel more heavy and solid. Its a neat trick.
          GR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @AGSHOP
          "German engineering" really needs to get their stuff together on electronics.
        holysmoke.s
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Famsert
        It's that magic fairy dust used in "German" engineering. It makes the owners have delusions of grandeur.
        Thunder
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Famsert
        It only shows how Americans are easily persuaded by advertisements - just claim anything and it must be true. Brand consciousness is another problem here.
        AGSHOP
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Famsert
        The mind is a powerful tool. It can make one believe anything!!! some say even cure people and make you sick if you truly believe it is your reality!!!
      socarboy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow, the lowly orphaned Suzuki Kizashi passed with flying colors!
      Crown R0yal
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's crazy to watch the alloy wheels snap in two or parts break off.
      superchan7
      • 2 Years Ago
      An easy way to pass this test is to have most of the structure of the car bypass the obstacle. Most of the cars that did well in this test appeared to have behaved this way, but some (Fusion) crunched completely into the barrier and the passenger cell still survived. That I find quite amazing. But in the end, either way a good score is a good score because it represents a reasonably realistic real-life crash scenario.
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @superchan7
        Oops, I meant the Accord was unexpectedly strong. The Fusion managed to slide past the crash barrier.
      Mike S
      • 2 Years Ago
      Very cool that Honda did well, as did Ford--two makers of cars I intend to check out when the time comes. Wonder how well my '09 Corolla would do in such a test...
      IBx27
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you want to see some drama, check the video for the current Mazda6!!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        piggybox
        • 2 Years Ago
        This is done by IIHS, not NHTSA. Have you even read the title?
        frost54661
        • 2 Years Ago
        Funny on how the testing was done by the IIHS, not NHTSA. Reading comprehension, anyone?
        Mr.Krinkle
        • 2 Years Ago
        This has to be the dumbest thing I've ever read on AB. Seriously, that's impressive....I'm not even mad!!
        ICantDrive88
        • 2 Years Ago
        Well since this was an independent IIHS test financed by insurance companies you're point is???? You sir, lost the internet today.
        RJC
        • 2 Years Ago
        Moron. Want to blame someone? Blame the corporate lobbyist organization that is the IIHS. They have a vested interest. The NHTSA doesn't have cash riding on the deal.
        Mason
        • 2 Years Ago
        Wow you made a "Government Motors" joke you're so witty and original, nobody has ever made that joke before...
      mikoprivat
      • 2 Years Ago
      so where are the toyota morons now complaining about Government conspiracy against toyota and hyundai??? it will take a few more yr=ears for their retard brains toi realize that american brands are superior to this asian junk they have been buying. Not only are these pieces of garbage dangerous to their owner, but MORE IMPORTANTLY they are a public threat to others on the road. Get out of the way of a toyota or lexus when you see one behind you (except when you are behind a Turdra losing it's spare tyres, in that situation just chnge lanes immediately)
        mikoprivat
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikoprivat
        so I had a few grammatical errors, so be it, good enough for the average autoblog reader
        Clarke Bouma
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikoprivat
        Did you read the article? Top rating when to a Honda and Suzuki. Asian cars…
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Clarke Bouma
          HKPro - watch the video and tell me which car you'd rather be in.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Clarke Bouma
          [blocked]
          kontroll
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Clarke Bouma
          overall the American brands pwerformed the best...sorry for ruining your evening Mento-San
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Clarke Bouma
          Kontroll, I know your biased but how the heck can you come up with that? American cars did not come close to Japanese!!!! The acura TL took best in the near luxury category. Six Japanese cars took the top spots on the family sedans. Americans had three cars (if you consider Chrysler American). You have to get over you bias.
        Carlos Cruz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikoprivat
        Do you know which is the only automaker to have passed this test without doubt? It's not American, and its certainly not from the land of the rising sun.... Volvo, and the Germans we'rent far behind.
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          Germans had one car. Did you see the audi and Mercedes?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          [blocked]
          churchmotor
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          Carlos Cruz, did you see where the door on the VW CC flew completely off on the previous round of test? I believe the Acura TL and Volvo were the only Plus Picks in that round. Face it, Honda's safety structure works, and they have been proving so in test after test, year after year. I don't see any consistant results from any Germans.
          fefifofum
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          The air bag FELL OFF the german car.... I wouldn't call that top safety.
          Carlos Cruz
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          Umm.... Talks about the CC and Jetta..... I SAID VOLVO, AND VOLVO ISN'T GERMAN. I stated that the Germans weren't far behind.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikoprivat
        [blocked]
          carfan
          • 2 Years Ago
          "reliability and safety": where do you live my friend under Mount Fuji??? Don't they deliver the newspaper in Japan for you to see all the recalls, all the bad reputation toyota is piling up like you do your commuter miles?
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          Maybe people should stop buying Toyotas for reliability and safety, considering they are no longer best-in-class at either.
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          MJC can you prove that? They are top in resale, safety, and reliablity. http://www.toyota.com/safety/awards.html http://www.autoblog.com/2012/11/20/carmd-releases-entirely-objective-reliability-rankings/ http://www.jdpower.com/content/press-release-auto/Q5wPftR/2012-u-s-vehicle-dependability-study.htm http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/30/business/la-fi-autos-reliability-20121030 http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2012/11/26/kbb-alg-resale-value-toyota-honda-hyundai/1726921/ Get lost moron.
        JDM
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikoprivat
        Hey $hit for brains can you read? I forgot you are a product of the superior American education system. In the midsize moderately priced cars six came from Japan, two from Italy, one from the USA, one from Korea, and one from Germany. But, I thought Japanese cars were unsafe.... http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr122012_TSP.html Not to mention Dodge and GM have 2 star crash test ratings according the NHSTA. The Tundra and F-150 are much better! http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Search-Results?startpage=1&pagesize=100&vclass=TRUCK&model=&year=&manufacturer=&searchtype=class&make1=&make2=&model1=&model2=&year1=&year2=&compcars=&byyear=&manufacturerSelect=&pagesize=100
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JDM
          [blocked]
      MJC
      • 2 Years Ago
      And yet another reason to buy a Honda and not garbage from Toyota.
        JDM
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        No idiot you do some research. Toyota has most top safety picks. More than any other brand! The Honda is brand new, the camry is two years old. Good for Honda but Toyota is far from garbage. http://www.toyota.com/safety/awards.html
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JDM
          Your link that you've posted about 100 times only enforces my point. I think every car Honda makes is on there.
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JDM
          The Camry was redesigned for 2012.
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JDM
          What's your point? Toyota also sells a ton of models. They have more top safety picks by virtue of that fact only.
          kontroll
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JDM
          I think the Iraq and Afghan war f***d up your sanity
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Using this to call Toyota cars "garbage" is intellectually dishonest. The test is NEW and many cars did poorly, including German cars which are commonly perceived as structurally stronger. I appreciate the new test motivating manufacturers to further improve their cars.
          MJC
          • 2 Years Ago
          @superchan7
          I'm not using this to call Toyota cars garbage. It's one example of why they are. They also have questionable quality in recent years, dated powertrains, ungainly exterior styling, numb steering, and some of the worst interiors on the market. There is no reason to buy one over the competition.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        MJC
        • 2 Years Ago
        You're funny. They changed the test to disadvantage Toyota, and yet Honda and Volvo (i.e. manufacturers with an actual reputation for safety) managed to ace is with vehicles that were developed at the same time or earlier than the 2012 Camry. Hmm...sounds to me like while Toyota is "adjusting their cars," which is difficult without redesigning the entire passenger cell, Honda will be enjoying great sales numbers.
        zoom_zoom_zoom
        • 2 Years Ago
        Sorry, Toyota has NEVER dominated crash test results.
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          @zoom_zoom_zoom
          Really? Read this: http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/12/18-new-models-earn-iihs-top-safety-pick-award-115-for-2012.html
        Jason Krumvieda
        • 2 Years Ago
        So they are going to have a different bumper/frame assembly in 2014...how does that fix the "now" that the rest of us live in? Does the IIHS also test for unintended acceleration?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jason Krumvieda
          [blocked]
          nowherefast792
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jason Krumvieda
          Ahh an infamous unintended acceleration troll. IIHS won't test for unintended acceleration because NASA already tried and found nothing wrong. Toyota improved their floor mat mounts and came out with SST. End of story.
        rem
        • 2 Years Ago
        Or perhaps with the preponderance of direct frontal impact safety technology, small offset frontal impacts have become a statistically significant source of injury and death and Toyota's cheap, poorly designed safety structure can't deal with any type of crash that it wasn't specifically optimized to excel at!
          JDM
          • 2 Years Ago
          @rem
          Poorly designed yet they still have more top safety picks than anyone else. Ignorant fool!
        Mr.Krinkle
        • 2 Years Ago
        Where did I read this post before? Oh yeah, LLN...virbatim. A few people shut you down over your "facts" there too. I'm not sure what the purpose is for your persistent Toyota trolling on every major automotive news blog. Is it brand awareness? Egotistical chest-thumping? Some sort of inferiority complex? Whatever it is, you're just pissing people off with your cheerleading. I can guarantee that you are not helping the Toyota image be being such a dbag. And, you more than likely have single-handedly detoured Toyota sales because of it. As a domestic fan what can I say but, Thanks!!
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