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SUV bumpers rated poor in low-speed collisions


December 1, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter


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In two separate crash test studies, midsize SUVs (sport utility vehicles) fared relatively worse at lower speeds, according to research by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In tests simulation 40 mph frontal offset crashes, eight of nine new SUV models earned the top rating of good, while the other was rated acceptable. But in 5 mph front and rear crashes, new SUVs sustained heavy bumper damage, with eight of nine scoring poor or marginal ratings. Only the 2003 Honda Pilot earned an acceptable rating for its bumper.
“The manufacturers of these SUVs try to create a rough-and-tough image for them, but their bumpers are flimsy,” says Adrian Lund, COO of the IIHS. “Vehicles shouldn’t sustain major damage in a minor collision at a fast walking speed.”
Average damage costs from the low-speed collisions ranged from US$400 to more than US$1600 for the KIA Sorento and Cadillac SRX.
In the 40 mph crash tests, the Toyota 4Runner was judged the best performer, an improvement on earlier versions of the model which scored just an acceptable rating. Improvements in the redesign led the new 4Runner to score well with minimal intrusion into the passenger compartment, the steering column staying put, and low injury to the crash test dummy. The frontal offset test means that the drivers side of the front end hits the barrier.
Lund says the high scores on the 40 mph test show the value of such testing in encouraging car makers to design safer vehicles. “When the institute first tests midsize SUVs in 1996, none was rated good. Now there are 16 current midsize SUV designs rated good.” Seven midsize SUVs are rated marginal or poor, however.