Following the roof crash test in 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is adding yet another strict test to the Top Safety Pick award criteria: a revised frontal crash test. After evaluating a handful of new vehicles, the Volvo S60 and Acura TL earned good ratings in the new test.
The new small overlap frontal crash test, designed to simulate what would happen when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or object, constitutes the front end of the driver's side striking a five-foot tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The IIHS claims this is the first test of its kind conducted outside of automakers' proving grounds in the U.S. and Europe. In its first round of testing 11 midsize luxury and premium cars, only three earned good or acceptable ratings.
Along with the good rating of the Volvo S60 and Acura TL, the Infiniti G earned an acceptable rating, while the Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, and Lincoln MKZ earned a marginal rating. All 11 models tested were from the 2012 model year. Poor ratings were received by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Lexus ES 350, and Audi A4. As for the Volkswagen CC, the four-door was the first vehicle the IIHS had ever evaluated to completely lose its door.
The new test comes after a 2009 IIHS study revealed small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of frontal accidents that led to serious injuries or fatalities for front-seat occupants, suggesting it was more important to test vehicles for that type of crash.
“These are severe crashes, and our new test reflects that,” said IIHS president Adrian Lund. “Most automakers design their vehicles to ace our moderate overlap frontal test and NHTSA’s full-width frontal test, but the problem of small overlap crashes hasn’t been addressed. We hope our new rating program will change that.”
Currently, the IIHS evaluates front, side, rollover, and rear crashes, with the front rating based on a moderate overlap test. The existing criteria will continue on for 2013, but vehicles that pass the small overlap test with flying colors will be recognized. Midsize cars, such as the top-selling Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion will make up the next round of small frontal crash testing.