With apologies to Joni Mitchell, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will be looking at the front ends of vehicles from both sides now. The IIHS says it's adding a new right-side front crash test program after it found that some automakers were neglecting passenger-side protection in its vaunted small overlap front crash protection tests.
Individual models will now have to earn good or acceptable passenger-side ratings in order to qualify for IIHS' Top Safety Pick + award.
In 2016, IIHS said it found inconsistencies in the results of passenger-side small overlap tests on seven small SUVs from the 2014 through 2016 model years that had good ratings for driver-side protection. Just one of those vehicles — the 2016 Hyundai Tucson — performed at a level corresponding to a good rating, while the others scored poor or acceptable.
In the first official passenger-side test of 2017-2018 midsize cars, all of which had good driver-side ratings, IIHS said 10 of 13 earned a good rating, one was acceptable and two earned marginal ratings. Though none had a poor or marginal structural rating, IIHS said the biggest problem was inconsistent airbag protection that leave passengers' heads at risk in five cars.
The 2018 Subaru Outback and 2018 Legacy both notched good ratings for passenger-side protection; the 2014 Legacy was rated marginal in the earlier tests. The other models that earned good passenger-side ratings were the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima and 2018 Toyota Camry. The Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat both earned marginal passenger-side ratings, while the Volkswagen Jetta was rated acceptable.
IIHS introduced the small overlap test, which measures what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object at 40 mph, in 2012. Since then, 13 manufacturers have made structural changes on 97 vehicles, with nearly three-quarters of them going on to earn a good rating, IIHS says.