The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is shaking up the auto industry with a new and more stringent crash test rating system.
A change was needed. It was becoming too easy for manufacturers to achieve five-star ratings under the old method. Not so with the new system. In fact, there are surprising winners and losers emerging as the NHTSA begins to wade through the hundreds of models that require testing under the new guidelines.
Honda Accord a big winner
The 2011 Honda Accord recorded top scores in the new crash test system. It boasts not just a perfect overall score of five stars, but is the only sedan to be awarded five stars in each of the three major testing categories. The NHTSA puts each vehicle through three specific types of crashes: front, side, and rollover. The idea is to reproduce real-world crash scenarios that more accurately identify which vehicles are safer. The new tests take into account recent advances in technology, from electronic stability control to active head restraints that are designed to reduce whiplash injuries in the event of rear-end collisions.
The Honda Accord’s perfect score was better than the highly rated 2011 BMW’s 528i sedan or the Hyundai Sonata. Although both the BMW and Hyundai achieved an enviable overall vehicle rating of five stars under the new system—the same as the Honda Accord—both fell just short of perfect scores with just four stars in the front crash test.
Honda Civic a big loser
The most shocking test results to date have the 2011 Honda Civic sedan receiving an overall vehicle rating of just three stars under the new system. Although the Civic achieved four-star results in both the front and rollover crash tests, it was awarded a dismal two stars in the side crash test. The current Honda Civic body design is getting long in the tooth. Expect a completely redesigned Honda Civic model to be released later this year. Electronic stability control should be standard in the new model.
Another disappointment is the new 2011 Honda CR-Z. The Honda CR-Z is a hybrid model that offers a unique blend of hybrid technology in a sports car body. Unfortunately, the new design did not get great scores under the new NHTSA crash test system. It achieved an overall vehicle score of just three stars.
Honda CR-V and Pilot: No Surprises
The only other Honda vehicles to be tested under the new system are the CR-V and Pilot crossovers. Both received respectable overall vehicle scores of four stars. This compares to overall vehicle ratings of four stars achieved by the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. However, one of the winners so far in the SUV category is the more expensive GMC Acadia, which was awarded a top overall crash test rating of five stars.