Crash testing is an essential part of new cars because it gives shoppers an accurate idea of car safety. There are several tests that all new vehicles undergo, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS, being one of the leading testing centers. The IIHS has updated the side-impact testing; some previously high-ranked midsize cars are suffering the consequences.

What is the new test?

The current test performed by IIHS has been around for 15 years and was due for an update. The now old test used a barrier that was 3,000 pounds traveling at 31 mph that rammed into the side of the car. The new test, used for trucks and SUVs, uses a heavier barrier, 4,200 pounds, traveling faster, at 37 mph. This test now more accurately represents real-life collisions.

Midsize sedans and wagons suffered under the new IIHS testing

IIHS just announced that a few cars and wagons did not do too well with the latest test that was just completed. This test has been performed a few times, and most models did OK in the past. But, for this test, a few models did not fare too well. Only 3 of the models tested scored “Good” or “Acceptable.”

For this specific test, IIHS tested the following:

  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Toyota Camry
  • Honda Accord
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Volkswagen Jetta
  • Nissan Altima
  • Subaru Outback

The release from IIHS said, “Overall, this initial group of midsize cars did not perform as well as the first batches of small and midsize SUVs evaluated earlier.” There are a few reasons that this could be the case, but according to the release, the lower height certainly played a part. With the lower ride height, the main point of impact is much higher, which could be a weakness of these cars. These results are examples of what would happen if a lower-riding vehicle is in an accident with a truck or SUV.

In terms of scoring, the Subaru Outback, Hyundai Sonata, and Volkswagen Jetta were the three highest scoring models. Only the Subaru Outback scored “Good” thanks to the higher ground clearance. On the other hand, the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta managed to score “Acceptable.”

The bad news about this test is that the Honda Accord earned a “Marginal” rating, while the Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima scored “Poor.”

What contributed to the lower scores?

car safety

2022 Toyota Camry | Toyota

Aside from the lower ride height impacting these scores, the damage to the car and how the crash test dummies reacted played a big part in the scoring. For example, the Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu both had a lot of intrusion into the cabin, which signifies a higher risk of torso, pelvis, and head injury to the driver and passengers. Furthermore, the Toyota Camry, which had less intrusion, showed a higher risk of injury to the driver’s pelvis and a head injury because the dummy’s head slid below the side curtain airbag and hit the windowsill.

The Honda Accord, which scored “Marginal,” also showed intrusion into the cabin due to the collision. But, the intrusion was not as severe as the other models in the crash tests. Additionally, testing showed a higher risk of injury to the driver’s pelvis and head.

If the automakers can make the necessary changes to make the structure more secure and lessen the risk of injuries, each car could score higher.

How could these scores affect the IIHS awards?

car safety

2022 Nissan Altima | Nissan

One of the biggest questions surrounding this test is how will the end-of-the-year awards? A car must score “Acceptable” or “Good” during the side-impact testing to receive an award.

For the Subaru Outback, this wagon will still receive the prestigious TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. The same goes for the Hyundai Sonata, which would still receive the TOP SAFETY PICK award. The Volkswagen Jetta does not receive an award but suffers from a drop in score.

Unfortunately, segment stalwarts such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry could lose the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award if the scores don’t improve. This would be a big hit to three popular cars, but this is not guaranteed. The automakers can take this information and make improvements to make these models safer.

There is time for improvements

car safety

2022 Hyundai Sonata | Hyundai

Luckily, this testing is not final and currently does not affect any of the awards handed out by IIHS. This means that right now, these models still receive awards from previous crash tests. But, going forward, fixes need to be made to ensure that these models can score “Acceptable” or “Good” to be still awarded the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ in the future.


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