Just three of seven midsize cars evaluated in an updated, tougher side-impact crash test earned decent ratings, but only the Subaru Outback earned the top rating. Three popular models – the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry – each earned the lowest rating.
The results of the recent assessments were released on Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by the insurance industry that conducted the evaluations.
“With vehicles that sit lower to the ground, the striking barrier hits higher on the door panel,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement. “That potentially puts sedans and wagons at a disadvantage in this evaluation but reflects what happens in a real-world crash when these vehicles are struck by a higher-riding pickup or SUV.”
The institute’s ratings, which range from highest to lowest, are: good, acceptable, marginal or poor. Each of the seven vehicles was given an overall rating, as well as for specific features, like structure and safety of the cage; level of injury to head and neck, torso and pelvis; and head protection.
The Honda Accord received the second-lowest rating of marginal, and the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta, which each had “somewhat higher levels of occupant compartment intrusion,” the analysis indicated, were rated acceptable.
The Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry each garnered the worst rating of poor.
From the report:
“The Altima and Malibu showed substantial intrusion into the occupant compartment, but the safety cage of the Camry held up well. Injury measures indicated a high risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver in the Altima, a moderate risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver and high risk of pelvis injuries for the rear passenger in the Camry, and a high risk of head or neck injuries for the driver in the Malibu. In all three vehicles, the heads of either the driver or rear passenger dummy or both slipped below the side curtain airbag to contact the windowsill.”
Overall, this group of midsize cars, the first to be assessed using the updated test, did not perform as well as the first batches of small and midsize SUVs evaluated earlier, the safety group said, noting that one reason could be their lower ride height. All seven of these vehicles earned good ratings in the original side test.
The Insurance Institute developed the updated side crash test after research indicated that many real-world side impacts, which account for nearly a quarter of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities, are more severe than the original evaluation showed.
The new test used a heavier barrier, traveling at a higher speed, to simulate the striking vehicle, the report said.
For more information about the updated test, including details about each of the models evaluated, click here.