Toyota Hits Highs And Lows With New NHTSA Crash Test Ratings

January 24, 2011

It used to be that you could never go wrong buying a Toyota or Honda. They could be pricey, but car buyers got their money’s worth: they seemed to last forever and each manufacturer boasted cutting-edge safety features to keep your family safe.

A new and more stringent crash test rating system by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is forcing some buyers to rethink Toyota and Honda’s dominance in the area of safety. In particular, the Toyota Camry and RAV4 have produced disappointing results after being tested under the new system.

The NHTSA now puts each vehicle through three specific types of crashes: front, side, and rollover. They are then given a single overall vehicle score so that car buyers can more easily compare one model to the other. The new tests reproduce real-world crash scenarios that take into account recent advances in technology, including life-saving features such as electronic stability control. The NHTSA felt changes were needed because it was becoming too easy for manufacturers to achieve five-star ratings under the old method.

Camry and RAV4 disappoint

Toyota Camry fans were shocked to learn that the 2011 Camry sedan achieved an overall rating of just three stars under the new crash test system. These results proved to be even more disappointing when it was learned that the Camry’s chief competitor, the Honda Accord, received top marks—a five-star rating—and won even more accolades by scoring a rare five stars in each of the three individual crash tests that the NHTSA employs. The Accord’s perfect scores are casting a long shadow on the Camry’s poor showing.

Toyota’s 2011 RAV4 only did slightly better than the Camry. The RAV4’s overall vehicle rating is also three stars, which is one less than its major competitor, Honda’s CR-V, which attained an over-all four star rating.

Sienna, Tacoma, and Venza fare better

The only other Toyota vehicles that have been tested under the new system are the Sienna minivan, the Tacoma truck, and the Venza, a wagon-like crossover vehicle. All recorded an over vehicle rating of four stars, and scored three stars in the front crash test, five stars in the side crash test, and four stars in the rollover crash test.

The NHTSA continues to wade through hundreds of models that haven’t yet been tested under the new guidelines.

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