You all know the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; they’re the folks that get paid to smash cars into walls. Now the IIHS has added a new level to its Top Safety Pick certification — Top Safety Pick+ — for vehicles that meet existing standards and perform well in new small frontal overlap tests.
Unfortunately, a number of vehicles that merit the Top Safety Pick award fail when run through this new test, designed to simulate a severe head-on crash.
Both the Toyota Camry and Prius V fall under this category. Each vehicle received a top score of Good from the IIHS for the four Top Safety Pick tests, but scored Poor in the small overlap crash.
From the IIHS:
In the Camry, the force of the impact shoved the front wheel back into the footwell, bending the windshield pillar and pushing the parking brake pedal and the left outer edge of the instrument panel rearward into the driver’s survival space. Likewise, there was significant intrusion in the Prius v, along with high forces on the dummy’s legs and feet. The Prius v is the only car in the midsize test group to earn a poor rating for hip and thigh protection.
These intrusions can cause problems with airbag deployment and/or effectiveness. In the Camry, the IIHS says the driver’s airbag and side curtain airbag both deployed, but the steering wheel had moved so far to the right that the crash dummy’s head made only minimal contact with the front airbag. Meanwhile, the side curtain airbag didn’t extend far enough forward to help prevent the dummy’s head from hitting the instrument panel.
The Prius V test was even more problematic, as the side curtain airbag deployed too late in the crash to offer protection.
“Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president.
In a statement Toyota responded, “With this new test, the institute has raised the bar again, and we will respond to the challenge.”
But Toyota isn’t alone in flunking the new IIHS test. In fact, several luxury and near-luxury vehicles were unable to meet the Top Safety Pick + standard.
Of the 12 higher-end cars tested by the IIHS, only two — the Acura TL and the Volvo S60 — came through with across-the-board Good ratings. Six other vehicles qualified for the Top Safety Pick award but showed either moderate (Acura TSX, Acura TSX Sport Wagon, BMW 3 Series, Volkswagen CC) or poor (Audia A4, Mercedes C Class) results in the small overlap test, meaning they could not earn the Top Safety Pick+ certification.
Meanwhile, 11 of the 18 moderately priced midsize cars run through the IIHS wringer earned the Top Safety Pick+ award — Chrysler 200 4-door, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord 2-door, Honda Accord 4-door, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima 4-door, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen Passat. It is worth noting that a majority of these earned only Acceptable ratings in the small overlap test, which would imply that there is still room for improvement.
“It’s remarkable that this group of midsize family cars did so much better than the midsize luxury car group,” says Lund. “The difference is stunning. Thirteen of these midsize cars offer better crash protection than all but three of their luxury counterparts, and at a price that’s easier on the wallet.”
Many car makers design their vehicles to perform well on the IIHS crash tests, so it’s hoped that the new test and the Top Safety Pick+ awards will spur them to keep improving.