Even a year and a half after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) introduced its small front overlap test, manufacturers continue to struggle in the stringent test. In the latest round of testing on midsize SUVs, all but three models tested failed to achieve even an “Acceptable” rating. The Toyota Highlander managed to eke out an “Acceptable” score, while only the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain earned “Good” ratings. That meant only those three receive the Top Safety Pick+ designation.
The IIHS revised the requirements for its 2014 Top Safety Pick rating, requiring eligible vehicles to score at least “Acceptable” in the small overlap test. A Top Safety Pick+ car must meet the same requirements, but must also be equipped with front crash prevention technology such as warning systems or automatic braking to be considered. Among the nine cars tested, only the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, and Toyota Highlander earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The other six were not awarded Top Safety Pick ratings.
“When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward,” said IIHS executive president David Zuby.
GM’s Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain managed to score “Good” ratings in every category of the small front overlap test. Structure, restraints, kinematics, and injury to all four body regions were well-protected in these vehicles.
Less confidence-inspiring were the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9. IIHS reports show that passengers would be much more likely to sustain serious injuries in these vehicles in the event of a small front overlap crash, in which 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end collides with a solid object such as a tree or telephone pole at 40 mph. In one test, the door frame in a Mazda CX-9 was smashed so far into the cabin that it actually hit the dummy’s head, which had slid off of the front airbag. The on-board side airbag failed to even deploy.
IIHS tests did show that the Toyota Highlander’s automatic braking function (which earned it an “Advanced” rating for front crash prevention), helped slow the car down by over 5 mph in tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph.