If nothing has changed, then how come something changed? That's the question behind the recent drop from five to four stars in the crash test rating for the Toyota Prius. As you can see on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, the 2014 Prius gets four stars overall while the 2013 got five. The two cars are basically identical, so what gives?

Toyota says it is not sure why NHTSA rated the Prius a four this time.

Starting with the 2011 model year, NHTSA updated its rating system and says in a FAQ that vehicles that had four- or five-star ratings could get lower ratings "even if no changes have been made to the vehicle." Green Car Reports says that the issue is a new set of frontal barrier tests that were conducted on the 2014 Prius last month and that resulted in the first new bits of crash test data for the car in years. The 2012 and 2013 Prius models were rated based on tests done in February 2011 on a 2011 Prius. All of these are variants of the third-generation model. The next-gen Prius is expected in 2015.

Jana Hartline, environmental communication manager at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, told AutoblogGreen that the company doesn't quite know what's going on with the drop in crash test scores:

There have been no changes in the test standards and no changes in the car, other than minor reinforcement for small overlap crash test which we believe did not compromise integrity. We are not sure why it rated a 4 this time. We are looking at the test results and we are confident the new generation will move back to 5 stars.

2014 Prius still has a five-star rating for the side crash test and four in the rollover test.



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  • 55 Comments
      Fazzster
      • 11 Months Ago
      Could be a conspiracy. The new RAV tested worse than the last generation.
      Mr. Z
      • 11 Months Ago
      I may be wrong here, but didnt the 2013 Honda Civic rating drop from the 2012 model? I dont think anything changed. It did the frontal rating dropped. From 5 stars to 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Civic#Ninth_generation_.282011.E2.80.93Present.29_FB4.2C_FG3.2C_FB2.2C_FG4.2C_FB6
        SteveG
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Mr. Z
        The small overlap test is what did that. Which factors into the frontal rating.
      Koenigsegg
      • 11 Months Ago
      "A prius?... Man get this BULLSHIT outta here!" - cube
        danwat1234
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Gets close to 50MPG real world average, it's not bullshit but the way things are going. They'll have an AWD Prius next year
      Christopher
      • 11 Months Ago
      Just crash 'em all.
      Aaron N.
      • 11 Months Ago
      So that counts another point for the enthusiasts today. First Bernie says goodbye to Formula 1, and now this. Next, Justin Beiber sells his CTS-V and Fisker Karma for a gigantic charity.
      paulwesterberg
      • 11 Months Ago
      The NHTSA has new offset frontal and side pole crash tests which make it more difficult for older vehicle designs to earn a perfect score.
      Patrick
      • 11 Months Ago
      I wonder if the extra reinforcement for the small-overlap tests has made the front more rigid and less deformable in front crash tests.
      boggin
      • 11 Months Ago
      "There have been no changes in the test standards and no changes in the car, OTHER THAN minor reinforcement for small overlap crash test which we believe did not compromise integrity. " Well it looked like the reinforcements for small overlap, did compromise overall integrity. Cheap, cheap, cheap Toyota won't spend any more than it has to on safety, which could mean they sacrificed a star in overall safety, in an attempt to get above marginal on the overlap test.
      groingo
      • 11 Months Ago
      Pretty hard to be consistent when the tester's are changing the rules on the fly.
        Cayman
        • 11 Months Ago
        @groingo
        Kind of hard to consistently improve safety of US cars if the tests aren't continually revised.
        m_2012
        • 11 Months Ago
        @groingo
        Make a safe car to begin with and it will pass all the tests. Just look at Tesla, they designed the car to be safe, not just to pass the tests. It has paid off in spades - numerous high speed crashes without injury. The Prius, not so much.
          Samuel Look
          • 11 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          Going to back that up with statistics on Prius crashes? or are you just making stuff up... I'd put money they are basically no worse than pretty much every other similar sized car out there. I would be amazed if a of car that has sold millions worldwide and consistently won a endless slew of awards and had 4 or 5 stars in multiple different international crash tests was killing it's occupants at any significant rate... Especially when you consider that this is by no means a cheap car to buy either so people aren't just buying it because it's all they can afford.
      m_2012
      • 11 Months Ago
      They made changes and it went down. Shocking. If they really want us to believe they went a whole year without changes and cost reductions, they must be silly. All the big automakers have whole departments to bid out parts and get them cheaper from other suppliers. Or they beat on the current suppliers until they run them out of business.
        Iamazing
        • 11 Months Ago
        @m_2012
        Exactly. Toyota tried to fleece their sheep for an extra $10 a car and in the process delivered a lesser quality vehicle. Why does this surprise anyone?
        Andy Grey
        • 11 Months Ago
        @m_2012
        Bingo!
      Herman
      • 11 Months Ago
      Don't look to Toyota if you want a safe car. Get a Honda or Volvo if you value safety.
        danwat1234
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Herman
        The Prius is quite safe. The 2015 model will be redesigned with a new body platform so it'll probably ace everything
      i.own.your.ass
      • 11 Months Ago
      no one buys Toyota for its safety rating... it's efficient period......
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