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New IIHS Crash Test: Is Your Car Safe?

Craig McClellan

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) introduced new crash tests in 2012 that may help car buyers determine the safety of their prospective purchases and will show car manufacturers how they must improve to prevent car accidents.

The IIHS recently evaluated midsize entry-luxury cars using one of those tests, the small-overlap offset crash test. In that test, a car going 40 mph strikes a rigid barrier with 25 percent of its front end. The test is designed to determine what happens should a small portion of the car absorb an impact.

Of the cars tested, the Honda Accord sedan and Suzuki Kizashi ranked "good" while the Toyota Camry and Prius ranked "poor." Other popular cars, such as the Mazda6 and Ford Fusion, ranked "acceptable." The Chevy Malibu and Volkswagon Jetta ranked "marginal."

IIHS Crash Test Ratings

Crash tests use crash dummies to determine how well the autos protect drivers and passengers from serious injury. Factors considered include:

  • Injury to crash test dummy
  • Change in structure of the car
  • How well the seatbelts stay in place
  • Effectiveness of airbags

The new small-overlap offset crash test showed significant damage to test dummies in cars that collapsed around the dummies' feet. Cars that ranked well generally did not collapse much around the lower leg. The new test, however, is not considered in this year's IIHS Top Safety Picks. Even though it failed the new test, the Camry is still considered a top safety pick because of its performance in the four major tests -- the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests.

Interestingly enough, the Kizashi, which is a top safety pick and passed this front-end test, is often outsold and will not be sold in the U.S. market for much longer.