Changes to Safety Test Could Pose Challenge for SUVs

October 19, 2017 by Ryan ZumMallen, @Zoomy575M

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will change the testing procedures that determine whether automakers earn high ratings, the organization said Thursday.

IIHS will add a new front crash test specific to the passenger side to encourage automakers to design the entire vehicle with safety in mind. The test replicates a crash in which the front corner of the vehicle hits another auto or solid object at 40 mph.

Previously IIHS based its ratings on the same small overlap test, introduced in 2012, that only applied to the driver’s side.

The new test will be used for 2018 safety ratings. Vehicles will be required to achieve a “Good” or “Acceptable” rating on the passenger-side small overlap front test to qualify as a Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+, the highest possible IIHS rating.

IIHS also released new results of the new passenger-side test for 13 mid-sized sedans. Ten received the highest rating of Good in the new test, while one was rated Acceptable and two were “Marginal.” None were ranked “Poor,” the lowest level.

The most rugged vehicle tested was the 2018 Subaru Outback, one of five sedans to score a Good rating across the board.

The single problem that affected the most sedans was inconsistent airbag protection, which could put passengers’ heads at risk, according to IIHS. Five of the mid-sized were marked for this shortcoming.

But none of the mid-sized sedans tested had structural issues. By contrast, during a preliminary 2016 test IIHS recommended that automakers strengthen the structures of small SUVs to enhance passenger safety.

IIHS SUV crash

2018 Subaru Outback crash test. (Photo: IIHS)

In that exercise, while all seven SUV models scored a Good rating on the driver’s side small overlap front test, only the 2016 Hyundai Tucson earned Good on the passenger’s side test. Three others were named Acceptable, two scored Marginal and the 2015 Toyota RAV4 received a Poor rating.

“This is an important aspect of occupant protection that needs more attention,” said Becky Mueller, senior research engineer at IIHS, in 2016. “More than 1,600 right-front passengers died in frontal crashes in 2014.”

Several SUVs and pickup trucks have earned high marks from IIHS in recent months.

The Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-5 and CX-9, Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V and Odyssey, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Subaru Crosstrek all earned Top Safety Pick+ honors.

The Volkswagen Atlas and Jeep Compass were recently named Top Safety Pick.

IIHS released mid-sized pickup truck results in September. The trucks scored well in crash tests but all were marked Poor for their available headlights, which prevented any from being named Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick.

Full IIHS safety ratings can be found here.

Read Next: GM, Toyota Top New Mid-Size Pickup Truck Safety Ratings

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