After crash-testing 18 midsize entries, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just two overall “Good” ratings: the four-door 2013 Honda Accord and the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi. Now that the IIHS' safety test ratings are more difficult than before, cars like the Nissan Altima, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, and Toyota Camry fall short of earning top recognition from the organization.
In case you missed that, the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi sedan -- built by an automaker that's soon to leave the U.S. market -- has been evaluated above many other more popular midsizers, along with the 2013 Honda Accord sedan. Though the Accord sedan and Kizashi were rated good, they aren't the only newly tested vehicles to get Top Safety Pick + status. To earn that award (with the "+"), a vehicle must be rated good in four of five tests that include a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact, rollover, and seat/head restraint evaluations (for rear impacts) and have a rating of no less than “acceptable” in any test.
Though the Accord sedan may be rated good, the 2013 Accord coupe is in the acceptable category, along with the Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima sedan, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200 sedan, Mazda6 (outgoing 2013 model), and Volkswagen Passat.
So far, the IIHS says 13 tested vehicles qualify for the Top Safety Pick + award: Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200 sedan, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord sedan and coupe, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima sedan, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen Passat, Acura TL, and Volvo S60.
While acceptable overall safety ratings from the IIHS may not have too great of an effect on midsize sedan sales, a lower score of “marginal” may. Curiously, while the Kia Optima earned an acceptable rating, the mechanically related Hyundai Sonata falls in the marginal category, along with the Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Jetta sedan.
Perhaps most notable, aside from the Accord's and Kizashi's Top Safety Pick + designation, are the two newly evaluated vehicles in the “Poor” category: the Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius V. A poor rating could have an impact on Toyota Camry sales, though the car will without a doubt remain on top of the segment for the 2012 calendar year. For 2013, however, we'd be surprised if Toyota doesn't announce a quick update to bump the car's rating to marginal or acceptable status. It's important to note that both Toyotas are already called Top Safety Picks, but their performance in the IIHS' new small overlap crash is what's set them back. In NHTSA safety tests, the 2013 Toyota Camry has a five-star overall rating (out of a maximum five stars).
Conversely, the Suzuki Kizashi has never qualified for the older Top Safety Pick status because its roof strength rating was only acceptable. As the IIHS says, the Kizashi "is the only midsize moderately priced car to earn a good rating for structure in the small overlap test." With the revised standards for Top Safety Pick +, the car qualifies for the new award but not the older one.
If you were in the market for a new midsize sedan, how closely would you pay attention to IIHS and NHTSA safety test results? Tell us in the comments section below.
UPDATE: Toyota has responded to the IIHS test results:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (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. We are evaluating the new test protocols and can say that there will not be one single solution to achieve greater crash performance in this area.
Toyota has 19 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models named 2012 IIHS “Top Safety Picks," including the Camry and Prius v, more than any other automaker. We’re also proud of the Camry’s 5 Star Safety rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)*
*The Prius v has not been rated by the NHTSA at this point.