Mazda3 earns Top Safety Pick award from IIHS

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The Insurance Istitute for Highway Safety has awarded the 2011 Mazda3 its coveted Top Safety Pick award. Both the 3 hatchback and sedan received "good" ratings when put up against the IIHS's roof crush machine, which applies constant pressure to the roof of the car. To earn a "good" rating, the car's roof has to withstand pressure equal to four times the car's weight before being compressed five inches.

The Mazda3 sedan's roof withstood a force equal to 5.32 times its weight, while the hatchback gave up at 5.09 times its weight. The federal requirement for rollover tests is 1.5 times a car's weight.

The 2011 Mazda3 sedan also earned a "good" rating in a 31-mile per hour simulated impact with a truck or SUV. Thanks to side curtain air bags and seat bolster air bags, the dummies' heads were kept safe. Despite the hard hit, there was limited intrusion into the passenger compartment.

The Top Safety Pick award only applies to Mazda3s made after December, 2010 for the 2011 model year. For 2011, Mazda added electronic stability control as standard, a requirement for the award, and strengthened the car's roof structure.

2011 Mazda3 Top Safety Pick
2011 Mazda3 Top Safety Pick
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[Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]
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Mazda 3 earns 2011 TOP SAFETY PICK award

After earning the top rating of good for roof strength in rollover crashes, the 2011 Mazda 3 sedan/hatchback qualifies as a TOP SAFETY PICK among small cars. The 3 previously earned good ratings for front, side, and rear crash protection.

It is the first Mazda to be designated a TOP SAFETY PICK since the Institute made the criteria to win more stringent by including a requirement for a good rating in the roof strength test. Two tests were conducted in order to rate both the 4-door sedan and hatchback versions. The roof of the sedan withstood a force equal to 5.32 times the car's weight. The roof of the hatchback withstood a force equal to 5.09 times its weight. Vehicles with a strength-to-weight ratio of 4 or higher earn a good rating in the Institute's test. By comparison, the current federal standard is 1.5 times weight.

The award only applies to 3s built after December 2010 because Mazda made changes to the roof structure to improve roof strength.

In addition to good crash test ratings, winners must have electronic stability control (ESC), an important crash-avoidance feature, which became standard on the 3 for the 2011 model year.

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