Mid-size pickup trucks from Toyota and General Motors earned high marks in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But headlights remained an area where pickup trucks need to improve, the insurance group said.
The safety scores are the most comprehensive ratings for the current crop of pickup trucks in this segment. Four mid-sized trucks earned the highest “Good” rating, according to the results, which were released Wednesday. Until now, the insurance industry nonprofit had only tested certain trims in a limited number of situations.
The double cab and access cab versions of the Toyota Tacoma each earned Good ratings in all five crash categories, as did the crew cab versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and its GMC Canyon twin. The Colorado and Canyon were also singled out for offering front crash prevention technology.
Extended cab versions of the Colorado and Canyon also fared well but earned an “Acceptable” rating in the front small overlap crash test rather than Good. The test replicates a crash in which the front corner of the truck hits another vehicle or solid object at 40 mph.
Crew cab and extended cab versions of the Nissan Frontier earned a Marginal rating in the small overlap crash test.
The small overlap crash test is challenging for pickup trucks because they are heavier than most vehicles and exert more force in front collisions, according to IIHS.
The Honda Ridgeline was not included in the most recent test results Wednesday but was tested for an overall safety score last year, earning the highest marks possible across the board. That was enough to designate the 2017 Ridgeline a Top Safety Pick+, the highest possible IIHS rating available.
None of the four truck models included in the most recent test scored high enough to be awarded Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick, the next best score.
Headlights were a sore spot for the trucks. All eight models tested were marked Poor for their available headlights. IIHS announced in June that mid-sized SUVs struggle to provide adequate illumination at night.
Still, the mid-sized trucks scored comparably or better than larger pickups like the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Large trucks are not as well suited to safety testing because their rugged structures and high centers of gravity do not absorb impact as well as cars.
Of the larger full-size pickups, only the Ford F-150 received a Top Safety Pick rating, while poor headlights, a lack of crash prevention technology and trouble passing the front small overlap crash test prevented the others from earning high marks.
Among mid-size models, the double cab version of the Toyota Tacoma was the sole mid-size pickup to earn a Good rating in Structure for the small overlap front crash test. The others were rated Acceptable, while the Nissan Frontier king cab earned Marginal, and its crew cab was Poor.
“This group of small pickups performed better in the small overlap front test than many of their larger pickup cousins,” said David Zuby, executive vice president for IIHS. “The exception was the Nissan Frontier, which hasn’t had a structural redesign since the 2005 model year.”
The mid-size pickup market is growing. Through the first eight months of 2017 sales increased by 1.1 percent to more than 295,000 vehicles, compared with the same period last year.
Incoming models are expected to help the segment expand.
Ford will re-introduce its Ranger nameplate, with production scheduled to begin in late 2018. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is openly testing a future Jeep Wrangler pickup that could reach dealerships in 2019.
More than 448,000 mid-size pickups were sold to U.S. buyers in 2016, according to Autodata Corp. Annual sales are projected to rise 9.5 percent to more than 491,000 by 2021, according to IHS Markit.