The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently tested 12 compact cars in a severe small-overlap front crash test. Six of the cars received a score of Acceptable or higher, faring better than many of the sport utility vehicles and compact crossovers tested just a few weeks before. Some compact cars even received the IIHS Top Safety Pick award, the organization's highest designation.
Small-overlap Front Crash Test
The IIHS added a new test to their sequence just last year: the small-overlap evaluation. This specific test is designed to show the damaging effects of a collision on the front corner of a vehicle. The crash test is set up so that the vehicle is driven into a five-foot-tall barrier at 40 miles per hour, creating an impact on 25% of the front driver's side. When the edge of the vehicle hits the barrier in this highly-vulnerable spot, it misses the crush-zone safety feature built into the primary structure of the vehicle, designed to reduce crash forces on the passenger compartment.
- Who passed?
Small car models that passed the small-overlap front crash with a perfect "Good" score include the two-door and four-door Honda Civic. Vehicles that earned an "Acceptable" rating include the 2013 Ford Focus, 2013 Hyundai Elantra, 2014 Scion TC, and the 2013 Dodge Dart, despite having the driver's door torn away from the door frame in the second test. Seat belts, front airbags, and side curtain airbags helped improve the Dart's rating by protecting the crash dummy's head and upper body.
- Who failed?
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle, Chevrolet Cruze, and Chevrolet Sonic received "Marginal" ratings while the 2013 Kia Soul, 2014 Kia Forte, and 2014 Nissan Sentra received the absolute lowest rating of "Poor." The 2014 Toyota Corolla was not tested with this group due to a redesigned model set to come out later this month. The Lexus ES, Lexis IS, Toyota Camry, Prius V, and the Toyota Rav4 SUV all received "Poor" ratings. The Scion TC is the only vehicle from Toyota to receive a rating above "Poor" in the small-overlap tests.
These tests conducted by the IIHS help researchers identify the common factors among dangerous vehicles. In general, safety issues which become apparent in the small-overlap crash tests relate to the vehicle's internal structure and restraint systems. In poorly rated compact cars and SUVs alike, the safety cage can collapse; unstable steering columns can shift sideways; and side airbags either don't deploy or do not provide adequate protection.