IIHS Top Safety Pick + Award
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety has released the results of its latest small overlap front crash tests, and there's a surprise among small cars. IIHS tested 12 cars, half of which managed "Good" or "Acceptable" ratings overall, qualifying them for the the coveted Top Safety Pick+.

Top Safety Pick+ is still a fairly rare achievement since the new small overlap crash tests were instituted, as it's taken manufacturers time to design, engineer, build and bring to market cars that can score well on the new metric.

The overlap front crash test covers the car's structure, restraint systems and kinematics, as well as measuring the "injuries" the crash test dummy's heads, necks, chests, hips, thighs, legs and feet.

The highest scorers were the Honda Civic Sedan, followed closely by the Civic Coupe. These were also the only two to earn overall scores of "Good." The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Scion tC all earned acceptable scores overall, which was still enough to qualify them for the TSP+ rating. The bottom half of the test included the Chevrolet Sonic, Volkswagen Beetle, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Kia Soul and Kia Forte.

Only 25 models have earned the TSP+ rating so far, which requires cars to earn "Good" ratings for occupant protection in four out of five tests, while scoring at least an acceptable on the fifth test.
Click through for the full press release from IIHS, as well as a video
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Performance in small overlap front test earns 6 small cars good or acceptable ratings and TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

ARLINGTON, Va. - The latest small overlap front crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveal a range of performance among many of the best-selling small cars in the U.S. market. Of the 12 models evaluated, half earn a good or acceptable rating and qualify for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The 2-door and 4-door models of the Honda Civic are the only small cars to earn the top rating of good in the test. IIHS evaluated the Civics earlier this year and released the results in March. The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and 2014 model Scion tC earn acceptable ratings.

The Civics, Dart, Elantra, Focus and tC earn the TOP SAFETY PICK+ accolade. The Institute introduced the award in 2012 to recognize models with superior crash protection. So far, 25 models earn the top honor. The "plus" indicates good or acceptable performance in the small overlap test. Winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in 4 of 5 evaluations and no less than acceptable in the fifth test. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap front crash, small overlap front crash, side impact and rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

The Institute added the small overlap front test to its lineup of vehicle evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle'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. Small cars are the fourth group of vehicles to be tested. All but the tC and Kia Forte are 2013 models. IIHS also has evaluated midsize luxury cars, midsize cars and small SUVs. Results for minicars will be released later this year.

As a group, small cars fared worse than their midsize moderately priced counterparts in the same test but better overall than small SUVs.

"The small cars with marginal or poor ratings had some of the same structural and restraint system issues as other models we've tested," says David Zuby, the Institute's chief research officer. "In the worst cases safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways with unstable steering columns and the dummy's head hit the instrument panel. Side curtain airbags didn't deploy or didn't provide enough forward coverage to make a difference. All of this adds up to marginal or poor protection in a small overlap crash."

Most new vehicles are designed to do well in the federal government's full-width front crash test and in the Institute's moderate overlap front test, but that is no guarantee of good performance in a small overlap crash. In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. In many vehicles the impact at a 25 percent overlap misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy. That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver's head outboard, away from the protection of the front airbag. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off of it, the head and chest are unprotected.

That's what happened when the Volkswagen Beetle was put to the test. During impact, the steering column moved nearly 5 inches to the right as the dummy's upper body moved forward and to the left. The rotation meant that the dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag. At the same time, the safety belt spooled out too much, allowing the dummy to move forward 13 inches and hit its head on the dashboard. The side airbag didn't deploy. Instead of a curtain airbag, the Beetle has a seat-mounted combination head-torso side airbag that isn't designed to protect the head in this type of crash. All of these issues add up to a poor restraints and kinematics score for the Beetle. The Volkswagen earns a marginal rating overall, helped by an acceptable rating for structure and good dummy injury measures.

A similar problem with safety belts and airbags was seen with the Kia Forte, the worst performer for both restraints and structure of all of the small cars evaluated. Too much belt slack and a side curtain airbag that deployed but didn't provide enough forward coverage allowed the dummy's head to hit the windshield pillar and instrument panel.

In contrast, both the 2-door and 4-door versions of the Civic earn good ratings for restraints and kinematics and structure. Dummy movement during the tests was well-controlled, and both cars had only minimal intrusion into the occupant compartment, so survival space for the dummy was well-maintained.

Timing the side curtain airbag to deploy to provide optimal head protection in the crash also is key. In the Chevrolet Sonic test, the airbag deployed after the dummy had already moved toward the open driver window, leaving its head on the wrong side of the curtain airbag. The Sonic earns a marginal rating for restraints and kinematics and acceptable for structure.

Good side curtain airbag coverage in the Elantra helped the car earn an acceptable rating, even though the safety belt allowed the dummy to move forward 11 inches. Among vehicles in which the side curtain airbags deployed, only those in the Elantra, Civics and Scion tC offered sufficient forward coverage.

"Toyota changed the airbag algorithm in the 2014 model tC so the curtain airbag would deploy in a small overlap crash. That helped boost the Scion's rating. Without the change, the tC would have had a marginal rating for restraints and kinematics," Zuby says.

The Institute didn't test the Toyota Corolla because the automaker plans to release a redesigned 2014 model in August.

The Dart was tested twice because of an on-board camera malfunction in the first test. Engineers use footage from cameras to assess how dummies move during crash tests. In the Dart retest, the driver door opened when the hinges tore away from the door frame. In the initial test, the hinges were severely damaged and the lower one tore away, but the door stayed shut. In both tests, the Dart's safety belts and front and side curtain airbags effectively protected the dummy's head and upper body, and sensors in the dummy showed little risk of injury to a person in a similar real-world crash. The Institute averaged results of both tests and downgraded the Dart's restraints and kinematics rating to marginal because doors shouldn't open in a crash. Without the issue, the Dart would have earned a good rating for restraints and kinematics. It earns an acceptable rating for structure.

Having six small cars qualify for the Institute's highest safety award broadens the choices for consumers looking to buy a small car. The latest results highlight how some automakers are designing models to perform well in the demanding small overlap test. At the same time, other automakers have more work to do.

"Manufacturers need to focus on the whole package," Zuby says. "That means a strong occupant compartment that resists the kinds of intrusion we see in a frontal crash like this, safety belts that prevent a driver from pitching too far forward and side curtain airbags to cushion a head at risk of hitting the dashboard or window frame."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 43 Comments
      lasertekk
      • 1 Year Ago
      Those cars are considered small?
      thundabaaay
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Chevrolet Sonic's individual video --- watch it! The side airbag doesn't go off until the crash is already over! Never seen anything like that happen for any of the other small overlap tests. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0mdvWnFaeE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @thundabaaay
        [blocked]
        mazeroni
        • 1 Year Ago
        @thundabaaay
        That's interesting, but it makes sense from my non-engineering perspective. From what I can tell the sensors in the car have determined this is a frontal crash, initially. The car isn't going to deploy airbags if it isn't needed since we know that they can do more harm than good in certain circumstances, plus the costs of replacing them. Once the car begins to rotate off axis the sensors presume a side impact has occurred. It's clear that the sonic, like many cars, where not engineered with the overlap test in mind which is why it scored 'marginal.' I don't know if a software update could be implemented to better differentiate a full head-on-crash from a small overlap impact but I doubt it. Anyway, it isn't something I would fret about. There is no reason to drive head on into a concrete barrier at speed.
          thundabaaay
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mazeroni
          Of course not. Must be some kind of electrical/software glitch, but it's interesting because the Sonic is the only vehicle that I have seen out of these tests that was equipped with the side air bags, but they didn't go off. Just odd to me. I have a 2007 Kia Spectra (last gen Elantra) and it'd probably do much worse in these tests lol.
      Famsert
      • 1 Year Ago
      Awesome job by Honda once again.
        Drakkon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Famsert
        Oddly, the CRV did not do well at all in the small CUV tests Awesome job by Subaru once again.
          Famsert
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Drakkon
          And which Subaru are you talking about in this article?
          Famsert
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Drakkon
          Oddly, the Accord did better in the test than the legacy.
      NightFlight
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, Kia and Nissan have some work to do. Pretty poor performance from vehicles that were just released.
      mr.vw
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lmoa it looks like VW's decontenting continues!! Interior first, now safety!!
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        Matt Brown
        • 1 Year Ago
        Yea, look at all them ******* in their small cars with their gas mileage and their correct grammar.
        Ducman69
        • 1 Year Ago
        I want to be pussified. I assume it involves smothering me with women's crotches.
          Aaron
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          Maybe women would...
          Helix
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          I don't see why anyone would object to that.
      plinth5
      • 1 Year Ago
      Only problem with these tests is that they don't reflect real world conditions.
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @plinth5
        This happens in 25% of all front end collisions. Nice try, though.
        v8eater
        • 1 Year Ago
        @plinth5
        Lol are you serious?! So when a car in the opposite lane drifts into your lane and clips your car, what do call that?
      Dave
      • 1 Year Ago
      There was an article this morning on several websites about the Tesla earning a triple 5 star rating as well. Nothing on Autoblog though..
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dave
        [blocked]
      Ben Dover
      • 1 Year Ago
      In accidents with a stationary object, the larger mass vehicles have virtually no advantage other than extra crumple zone square footage, as they carry just that much more momentum into the accident and its only their own momentum that causes damage. In an accident of two vehicles in a head on collision, the smaller vehicle will experience MANY times more g-forces and can even be pushed backward as the heavier vehicle continues to move forward in the impact, reducing the perceived impact for the heavy vehicle and causing for example a 60mph to -8mph impact for the smaller car which can cause many times greater G-force load than hitting a wall. Yes, this means that to be safer everyone would buy a bigger and bigger vehicle, and a tank vs a tank would be no safer, but you can't defeat scientific fact of two objects of unequal mass hitting each other. Think for example of putting a G-force meter inside a tennis ball and a basketball. If you throw either against a wall at 6mph, the G-force should read about the same. If you instead throw the basketball and tennis ball at each other, the basketball will experience virtually no impact while the tennis ball will spike at CRAZY high levels. Bigger IS better all else equal in car crashes, its science. PS: I drive a 2600lb car, but I know that I need to avoid accidents with my more nimble chassis, and will always lose against a Dodge Ram 1500. Period.
      jak3bb14
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think the Nikkei might get a three- or four-day trading bounce starting tomorrow, provided the Crazy Yen Shorts can manage not to be so greedy this time and divorce Japanese currency from Japanese markets. They've gotta do it sometime, and after this latest - overdone - rout, it might be a good place to start. I bought a little HMC today. Not only does the crash test results help it - and their opening another US factory - and a nice upgrade from Credit Suisses - but I think the idiotic Tesla Mania also does. The contrast between Tesla and Honda as both stocks and companies couldn't be greater. And I, for one, have always been partial to Honda. - Jake from http://www.4-insure.com/laws/
      groingo
      • 1 Year Ago
      I see nothing has changed, the wheels are still smashing up under the car into the floor boards which results in shattered feet, ankles and legs, a better idea, spend some of this R&D money and educate the drivers to avoid the wall in the first place!
      dohc73
      • 1 Year Ago
      Have fun, suckers, with your fancy optioned Hyundais/KIA that are put together with scotch tape underneath.
        BB79826
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dohc73
        lol the Elantra was one of the highest performers here. Do you know how to read?
          dohc73
          • 1 Year Ago
          @BB79826
          "Good side curtain airbag coverage in the Elantra helped the car earn an acceptable rating, even though the safety belt allowed the dummy to move forward 11 inches." go ahead, take your chances in a Hyundai then. Better hope your head stays within 11 inches too.
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