Prius v Rates ‘Poor’ In New IIHS Crash Test; Fusion A ‘Top Pick’

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the Toyota Prius v ‘poor’ for its performance in small overlap frontal crash testing. The Camry was also given the same mark.

While direct impact frontal crash tests have been a standard for years with the IIHS – as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the small overlap test is comparatively new. The test, first implemented this year, is meant to simulate scenarios where a vehicle’s front corner might collide with a tree or a utility pole, for example, or even another vehicle.

In a release issued yesterday the institute said results from 2009 testing showed that small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants in vehicles that otherwise had good rating for frontal crash protection.

According to the IIHS, 25 percent of a car’s front-end on the driver side strikes a five-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The institute says that this test represents a severe crash.

Evaluating what it calls moderately priced midsize cars for model-year 2013, the institute said that of the 18 cars evaluated in the small overlap test, two earn the top rating of good, 11 earn acceptable, three earn marginal, and two are poor.

Most modern cars have safety cages built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation, and the two Toyotas are no exception, notes the IIHS.

Crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment. The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50 percent of the front end. When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can more effectively restrain and protect people inside.

The Camry and Prius v earned their poor rating – the only two vehicles in this round of testing to do so – because they didn’t adequately protect the driver and/or passenger compartment during the small overlap collision. Resulting damage often sees the front wheel, as well as suspension components, breach the vehicle’s firewall and enter the footwell.

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Further, the Prius v is the only car in the midsize test group to earn a poor rating for hip and thigh protection.

IIHS testing reveals that in crashes of this type the impact occurs toward the car’s outer edge; the vehicle has a tendency to rotate during the collision, resulting in the driver’s head moving outboard, away from the frontal airbag. Real crashes of this type, said the IIHS, result in head injuries from contact with outboard structures or intruding objects such as trees or poles.

Toyota Already On The Job

As a brand that routinely leads segments, and prides itself on the safety features of its vehicles, Toyota was quick to respond to its cars’ performance in the small overlap test, and likely to IIHS President, Adrian Lund’s, comment that, “Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors.”

In a statement issued today, the company acknowledged that the IIHS sets testing procedures that often are more severe or specialized than what is required by federal testing.

Toyota said it will respond to the challenge of improving small overlap test results for the Camry and Prius v, and that better results in this area will require more than just one solution.

Toyota also pointed out that the Camry and Prius v have previously been awarded a Top Safety Pick – which accounts for many criteria except small overlap – by the IIHS.

The company also noted that the Camry has netted a 5 Star Safety rating in NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The Prius v has yet to be evaluated by NHTSA for this program, according to Toyota.

Ford Fusion Earns New IIHS Safety Award

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To highlight acceptable to good performance in the new crash criterion of small overlap, the IIHS has up rated its Top Safety Pick award by adding on a plus sign (+).

The Top Safety Pick+ recognizes vehicles that earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least four of five evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact and rollover, as well as evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

Ford’s Fusion is counted among 13 vehicles out of 29 cars tested thus far that have received the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honor.

“We’ve seen automakers make structural and restraint changes in response to our small overlap test,” said Lund in a statement. “Five manufacturers redesigned their midsize cars to enhance small overlap crash protection.”

The IIHS said that Ford is one of at least four automakers that have made running structural changes for 2013 models as result of IIHS testing.