Canadian Underwriter

Family cars outperform luxury models in new crash test

December 20, 2012   by Canadian Underwriter

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The 2013 Honda Accord 4-door and Suzuki Kizashi have been added to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) list of safety picks after a new frontal crash test revealed the majority of evaluated family cars outperformed most of their luxury counterparts.


The two models, both of which received a good rating, were among the 13 midsize family cars to make the list, notes a statement from IIHS. “It’s remarkable that this group of midsize family cars did so much better than the midsize luxury car group,” says IIHS president Adrian 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,” Lund adds.

The 13 cars received IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+, the plus indicates good or acceptable performance and rewards 2013 models with superior crash protection. Recipients must earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least four of five evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test.

The IIHS reports that vehicles are rated based on performance in a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, and side impact and rollover, as well as evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

In all, 18 moderately priced midsize cars and 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars were evaluated with the new small overlap test. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or utility pole, notes the IIHS. In the test, 25% of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a five-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph.

For many vehicles, a 25% overlap frontal impact misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy and results in crash forces going directly into the wheel, suspension system and firewall, the institute reports. These crashes often have high levels of occupant compartment intrusion.

Because the vehicle has a tendency to rotate during the collision, the driver’s head moves outboard and away from the frontal airbag. “Real crashes of this type result in head injuries from contact with outboard structures or intruding objects, such as trees or poles,” the statement adds.

Of the 18 cars, two models earn the top rating of good, 11 earn acceptable, three earn marginal, and two are poor; of the 11, just three earned good or acceptable ratings.

Many automakers have not addressed the problem of small overlaps crashes, notes the institute statement. “In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants,” it adds.

Of the 18 moderately priced midsize cars, the 2013 Honda Accord 4-door and Suzuki Kizashi earn the top rating of good, 11 earn acceptable, three earn marginal, and two are poor; just three of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated earned good or acceptable ratings.


The 13 models on the safety pick list include the Dodge Avenger and its twin, the Chrysler 200 4-door; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord 2-door; Honda Accord 4-door; Kia Optima; Nissan Altima 4-door; Subaru Legacy and its twin, the Subaru Outback; Suzuki Kizashi and Volkswagen Passat. Two previously tested luxury models, the Acura TL and Volvo S60, are also on the list.

IIHS gives manufacturers advance notice of planned changes. “We’ve seen automakers make structural and restraint changes in response to our small overlap test,” Lund reports. “Five manufacturers redesigned their midsize cars to enhance small overlap crash protection,” he adds.

More specifically, Honda engineered both versions of the Accord to do well in the test; Ford and Nissan made running structural changes to 2013 models already in production; and Subaru and Volkswagen changed airbag control modules on the production line so that side curtain airbags would deploy for improved head protection.

IIHS will announce additional vehicles on the list as it continues to test models. Results for small SUVs are expected in the spring.

Photos: The Toyota Prius v (top left) and Suzuki Kizashi (bottom right) are crash tested. (Credit: IIHS)