The Honda Accord undergoing the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new 20% front offset crash test. Only the Accord and Suzuki Kizashi scored "good" among mid-size family sedans in the test.(Photo: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
More mass-market midsize family cars got passing marks than did
luxury cars in a relatively new crash test designed to show how well
vehicles protect passengers when they crash into a narrow object, the
insurance industry's safety arm says today.
Of 18 moderately
priced midsize cars tested from the 2013 model year, 13 were rated good
or acceptable in a new kind of crash test engineered by the Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety. Only three of 11 midsize 2012 luxury cars
tested earlier got those ratings.
The "narrow offset" test
involves crashing a car so that its front corner - 20% of its front end -
strikes a vertical, thin object such as a pole or a tree at 40 miles an
hour. It is a more severe frontal test than those in the battery of
government crash tests.
"About 10,000 deaths a year are in frontal
crashes and about one-fourth of those are 'narrow offset,' " says IIHS
spokesman Russ Rader. "We think it is important to look at how people
are actually dying in real-world crashes."
He says that the family
sedans generally are newer and makers such as Honda were able to design
improvements to meet the new test. Otherwise, he says, it's a mystery
as to why the luxury group would score lower as a group.
features such as crash protection and air bags are top selling points
for all cars these days, especially family sedans. But makers often give
their pricier luxury cars even more exotic safety features, such as
infrared systems that detect pedestrians or animals in the darkness or
costly carbon-fiber structural elements. Thus, Rader says, it'd be
logical for them to perform better.
Chuck Thomas, Honda's chief
engineer for safety, said in an interview that the team saw hints of
IIHS' plans for a new test as far back as 2009 so it could design the
changes into the new family sedan. "It's something we've been following
for some time," he says.
He says the team got existing safety
structures in the new Accord's body to work better in conjunction with
each other and used more high-strength steel, which also reduced the
The two getting the top "good" score in the offset
test among the 2013 family car pack: Suzuki Kizashi and new Honda Accord
sedan, though Suzuki recently announced it will no longer sell cars in
Cars rated "acceptable" include Ford Fusion, Honda Accord
coupe, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru
Outback, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat.
"Marginal" performers are Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu and VW Jetta.
Those rated "poor" include Toyota's Camry and Prius V hybrid.
Among the luxury vehicles, Acura TL and Volvo S60 rated "good," and
Infiniti's G sedan was "acceptable." "Marginal" performers included
Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC. Lexus ES and IS,
Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 rated "poor."
In a statement
about the low Toyota and Lexus scores, Toyota noted that IIHS
"periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests which go
beyond federal requirements. With this new test, the Institute has
raised the bar again and we will respond to the challenge."