America's best-selling passenger car is hardly the country's safest, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found.
IIHS tested 18 moderately priced midsize sedans in a new "small overlap" crash test designed to emulate real-world incidents where only a small portion of the front of the car strikes another object. The findings? The Honda Accord and Suzuki Kizashi came out on top, while the hot-selling Toyota Camry and the fuel-sipping Toyota Prius v received the lowest scores possible.
Earlier this year, the organization released small overlap test results for a handful of luxury cars, and only two performed well -- the Volvo S60 and Acura TL. The new test sends the driver's side of a vehicle into a stationary object in an effort to direct crash forces into the driver's area of the cabin. In addition, the small overlap test evaluates how well the supplementary restraints - a driver's airbag and seat and curtain side airbags - remain in position to effectively protect the driver.
Midsize 2013 models that received a "Good" rating in the Small Overlap test:
Midsize 2013 models that received an "Acceptable" Small Overlap rating :
- Honda Accord Coupe
- Ford Fusion
- Nissan Altima Sedan
- Chrysler 200 / Dodge Avenger
- Kia Optima
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- Volkswagen Passat Sedan
- Nissan Maxima
2013 Models with a "Marginal" Small Overlap rating:
2013 Models with a "Poor" Small Overlap rating:
Among those strong performers, the Kizashi and the Accord sedan came out on top with the highest rating for the new small overlap test: Good. In particular, the Accord aced all of IIHS' other tests, including a roof strength evaluation that measures how well the car would perform in a severe rollover situation. The Kizashi earned the second-highest "acceptable" rating in the roll test, but IIHS says that the overlap test performance was enough to rank it on top. It's worth noting that Suzuki is in the midst of leaving the U.S. market.
Also tested and receiving Moderate scores were the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta. The Mazda 6 - the outgoing 2013 model that is no longer in production - and the Nissan Maxima received Acceptable scores, but lower results in rollover and rear impact tests disqualified them from being able to receive Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + awards.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius v did well in the standard front, side, rollover/roof strength and rear impact tests, but the new small overlap test was clearly not their forte. Both models received the lowest rating, Poor, which disqualified them from receiving the Top Safety Pick + award. Still, they merited the standard Top Safety Pick commendation since that award is based on the first four tests only.
The Camry's front wheel was shoved into the footwell, which bent its windshield pillar (also known as the A-pillar). As a result, the Camry's occupant compartment was severely compromised. The Prius v had similar issues, plus IIHS said that it received a poor rating for hip and thigh protection.
The test also often results in airbag-related issues. In the Camry, the steering wheel moved to the right during the impact, which meant that the driver's head made "only minimal contact" with the cushion. Meanwhile, the Camry's side airbag was too small to cover the instrument panel and the Prius v's side airbag didn't deploy in time.
But Toyota wasn't alone in airbag issues. The Volkswagen Jetta's driver airbag module actually detached from the steering column, which the group says didn't affect the dummy but still shouldn't have happened. VW says it is investigating the airbag module.
Overall "Top Safety Pick+ winners for the 2013 model year:
- Chrysler 200 sedan
- Dodge Avenger
- Ford Fusion (built after December 2012)
- Honda Accord sedan and coupe
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima sedan (built after November 2012)
- Subaru Legacy (built after November 2012)
- Subaru Outback (built after August 2012)
- Suzuki Kizashi
- Volkswagen Passat (built after October 2012)