The surprising news—and perhaps good news for families on a tight vehicle budget—is that in a tough new frontal crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), far more of the mainstream family cars tested have earned at least 'acceptable' scores, while fewer high-priced luxury cars so far have met the cut.
In this latest round of testing, both the 2013 Honda Accord and 2013 Suzuki Kizashi—two affordable sedans—earned a top 'good' rating in the new IIHS small overlap frontal offset test.
Unfortunately, supplies of the Kizashi are dwindling; the automaker is in the process of pulling out of the U.S. market and no longer sells vehicles here—although it will continue to maintain its service repair and parts network and to sell non-automotive products like ATVs, motorcycles, and marine products.
Camry and Prius V: Disappointments
2013 Toyota Camry
"The new IIHS test is more challenging," explained Honda in a separate release noting its vehicles ACE II body structure, "as it requires additional vehicle cabin structure and front structure outboard of the main frame rails—the primary energy absorbing structure." And all that, as Honda noted, is a major engineering change that can affect the way the vehicle drives.
Introduced earlier this year (when the Acura TL and Volvo S60 were first singled out as other top performers), the test simulates a collision with either another vehicle or a tree, when it overlaps with just 25 percent of the vehicle's front end, at 40 mph. A 50th-percentile dummy is belted into the driver's seat, and crash forces are measured, related to the likelihood of injury.
The test was introduced for a very specific reason: A 2009 study from the IIHS found that in vehicles with good frontal-crash ratings, these small-overlap crashes accounted for nearly one quarter of serious injuries or fatalities to those in the front seat.
Of the 18 mid-size family cars just tested by the IIHS, 13 of them (including the new 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Nissan Altima sedan) achieved a score of 'acceptable' or better in the new test; yet in the previous round just three of the 11 luxury and near-luxury cars achieved that.
Top Safety Pick+ singles out the best
Those results are being factored into a new designation, called Top Safety Pick+. In order to achieve it, vehicles need to perform at the 'acceptable' or better level in the new small-overlap test, plus they need to earn at least 'acceptable' in all five other tests plus 'good' in at least four of the five.
“It’s remarkable that this group of midsize family cars did so much better than the midsize luxury car group,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “The difference is stunning. Thirteen of these midsize cars offer better crash protection than all but three of their luxury counterparts, and at a price that’s easier on the wallet.”
This year, an additional 117 vehicles qualify as IIHS Top Safety Picks; these are vehicles that achieve top 'good' ratings in the standard frontal-impact test, the side impact test, the seat-based rear-impact test, and the roof-strength test. While these vehicles remain safe choices, no doubt, the Top Safety Pick+ vehicles are increasingly the ones for the most safety-minded shoppers to focus on when winnowing their list.
Of course, we still recommend that you'll get the most complete safety information by also checking federal NCAP five-star ratings for any vehicle you're considering. In the meantime, click to the following page to see the complete list of new Top Safety Pick+ vehicles, and the mid-size cars as they were rated in this new small-overlap test.
Mid-size cars' overall small overlap frontal ratings
Honda Accord Sedan
Honda Accord Coupe
Toyota Prius V
IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Chrysler 200 Sedan
Honda Accord Coupe
Honda Accord Sedan