The IIHS Evaluates the Top Safe Cars for Families

In recent tests, midsize cars in the moderate price range outperformed most of the luxury vehicles in a new frontal crash test that was conducted by the IIHS. Twelve of the 18 cars earned acceptable or higher ratings. However, only three of the 11 midsize luxury vehicles earned similar ratings. The test was recently introduced to improve the protection of passengers in frontal crashes and to focus on addressing the issue of small overlap crashes. A small overlap test imitates what occurs when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another object or vehicle. Experts were pleasantly surprised that the family cars tested better than their luxury counterparts.

New Safety Award

Superior vehicles that earned good or acceptable ratings may also earn a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from the IIHS. To qualify, vehicles must earn good ratings in at least four out of five evaluations for occupant protection. Nothing less than acceptable is permitted for the fifth test. Vehicles are rated as poor, marginal, acceptable or good in the areas of restraints, rear impacts, neck injury protection, side impact, rollover, and two separate overlap frontal crash tests.

The winners of the new award include the Chrysler 200 four-door, the Dodge Avenger, the Honda Accord four-door, the Honda Accord two-door, the Ford Fusion, the Nissan Altima four-door, the Subaru Outback, the Kia Optima, the Subaru Legacy, the Volkswagen Passat and the Suzuki Kizashi. For luxury models, the winners were the Volvo S60 and the Acura TL. There were an additional 117 vehicles that earned the regular TOP SAFETY PICK award. Honda did well engineering both Accord versions to excel in the tests. Nissan and Ford both made some structural changes to their new models. In addition to this, Volkswagen and Subaru switched airbag control modules to deploy side curtain airbags for better head protection.

Toyota Troubles

Most shoppers will find the Fusion, Accord and Altima remaining on the list of top family cars. However, one name they will not see is Toyota. The Camry was one of the top-selling midsize cars for several years, but both the Camry and the Prius V earned poor ratings. In addition to being the worst performers for the midsize group, they both gained poor ratings for the small overlap protection test. Both models were redesigned for 2012. Although both cars earned good ratings for TOP SAFETY PICK, they show what can go wrong in a small overlap crash. These cars also have the typical crash cages that are included on most vehicles.

With the Camry test, the impact force moved the front wheel back to where the footwell is located. This bent the windshield pillar and pushed the pedal of the parking break backward into the driver’s space for survival. Although this vehicle’s side curtain airbag and driver airbag both deployed, the steering wheel moved to the right so much that the dummy’s head barely made contact with the front airbag. However, the side curtain airbag did not extend enough to keep the dummy’s head from contacting the instrument panel. In the Prius V, there was also notable intrusion into the driver’s space. For the midsize test group, the Prius V was the only car to receive a poor rating for thigh and hip protection. Experts say that Toyota still has much work to do to meet their competitors’ standards.

Unexpected Results

For the Jetta test, researchers were surprised to see the driver airbag module completely detach from the steering column. This happened later in the crash and did not alter the dummy’s movement. However, airbags are meant to stay in place. Volkswagen is investigating this issue.

The Kizashi also had unique results. It earned good overall ratings. However, it only received an acceptable rating for roof strength, so it actually qualified for a regular TOP SAFETY PICK award instead of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. The IIHS gave it the highest award due to its overall good ratings.

Choosing a safe vehicle is important for every consumer. For more information about vehicle safety and insurance, discuss concerns with an agent.