In August, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a new front-impact crash test for midsize luxury and near-luxury cars. The safety organization has tested an additional 18 affordable midsize sedans using the same tests and reports that affordable midsize sedans receive better scores than their luxury counterparts.
The small front overlap test is designed to see how well a car performs in a front-impact crash where the front corner of the car hits an object like a tree or a pole at 40 mph. Moderate frontal overlap tests are the frontal impact tests that the IIHS has always performed, but the IIHS says “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 severe crashes, where the driver may be propelled toward the windshield and steering wheel, and assesses how safety features protect the test dummy. Models like the Honda Accord, which receives the IIHS’ highest score, have minor cabin intrusion and the seatbelts and airbags will secure the driver, protecting his chest and head.
Of the 18 affordable midsize sedans the IIHS tested, only two, the Honda Accord and Suzuki Kizashi, earn the highest score of "Good" in the new test. Eleven receive the second highest score of "Acceptable," three receive a score of "Marginal" and two earn "Poor."
To earn the IIHS’ new Top Safety Pick+ award, the cars must get a score of "Acceptable" or better in the front overlap test. They also have to qualify for the Top Safety Pick award, earning a score of good in moderate overlap frontal crash, side impact, rollover and rear tests.
- Chrysler 200 sedan
- Dodge Avenger
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord sedan and coupe
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima sedan
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- Suzuki Kizashi
- Volkswagen Passat
“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,” writes the IIHS in a press release. “One nameplate they won't find is Toyota.” The Toyota Camry and Prius V both received the lowest score in the new test.
With the outgoing Suzuki Kizashi earning the best score and the high-volume Camry earning the worst score in the new test, Automobile Magazine is a bit surprised. The Kizashi had never earned the Top Safety Pick Award until now, and the Camry and Prius V are Top Safety Picks. “For 2013, however, we’d be surprised if Toyota doesn’t announce a quick update to bump the car’s rating to marginal or acceptable status.”
The award winners are a great springboard for car shoppers, but you may have to check when some of these models were built because automakers updated some to improve test scores. “IIHS noted the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat and Volkswagen Jetta underwent running changes within the 2013 model year to various areas — like airbag modules and structural elements — to earn their Acceptable scores (or Marginal, in the Jetta's case),” says Kicking Tires. To get the updated model, check the driver’s door jamb for the production date. According to Kicking Tires, models built one month after these dates have the latest changes:
- Subaru Legacy and Outback: August 2012
- Volkswagen Jetta and Passat: October 2012
- Nissan Altima: November 2012
- Ford Fusion: December 2012
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