None of the six popular midsize sedans recently studied by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) earned the top rating of good in a recent series of tests designed to assess how well bumpers resist damage in everyday fender-benders.
Bumpers on the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu and 2010 Ford Fusion did worse than earlier models in low-speed crash tests, and bumpers on the 2009 Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6 and Nissan Maxima performed better than their 2007 predecessors.
The Mazda 6 improved to acceptable from marginal, with an average repair cost of less than $900 after four tests at 3 and 6 mph. The Accord and Sonata improved to marginal from poor. The Fusion slipped to poor from marginal, and the Maxima and Malibu remained poor.
This is the second group of vehicles the IIHS has evaluated under a new bumper ratings protocol based on repair costs averaged and weighted to reflect real-world damage patterns and insurance claims frequency. The IIHS rates bumpers good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in four tests front and rear full-width impacts at 6 mph, and front and rear corner impacts at 3 mph.
"Although midsize car bumpers still allow way too much damage in minor impacts, it’s encouraging that some manufacturers are designing better ones," said Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president.
He pointed out that the front and rear bumpers of the 2009 Mazda 6 are wider, taller and higher off the ground than the 2007 model. The Mazda 6 is only the fourth car tested under the new protocol to earn an acceptable rating for its bumpers. The others are the Ford Focus, Scion xB, and Smart Fortwo (click HERE to read more).
Mazda, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai improved the bumpers on their 2009 midsize cars so the bumpers would better resist front underride, according to the IIHS.
Design changes to the 2009 Accord, for example, have sharply lowered repair costs in the full front and full rear tests compared with the 2007 model. Now, its bumpers are higher than the previous versions, plus the front bumper’s reinforcement bar now is bolstered with metal pieces that extend upward from the bar to prevent underride. The changes helped the Accord earn a marginal rating instead of poor, but another change held back the car’s overall performance, according to the IIHS: The 2009 Accord’s bumpers aren’t as wide as the 2007 model’s, resulting in higher repair costs in both the front and rear corner tests.
The IIHS says that weaker bumpers mean bigger repair bills: Ford and GM made design changes that increased repair costs for the 2010 Fusion and 2009 Malibu over repair estimates for 2007 models. Ford fit the Fusion’s front and rear with weaker bumper beams. GM raised the Malibu’s rear bumper so it’s higher than on the earlier model, but it’s still the lowest among recently tested bumpers.
The IIHS says designs of 10 other midsize cars haven’t changed since their bumpers last were tested in the 2007 model year. Performance in those tests earned the Mitsubishi Galant and Toyota Camry marginal ratings. The Chrysler Sebring, Nissan Altima, Pontiac G6, Saturn AURA, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S40 earned poor ratings.
Bumper Performance in Low-Speed Crash Tests: Midsize Car Ratings and Repair Costs
|Rating||Front Full||Front Corner||Rear Full||Rear Corner||Weighted Average|
|Mazda 6||Acceptable||$742||$1,437||$768||$ 767||$871|
|Chevy Malibu||Poor||$2,092||$1,685||$ 3,494||$1,116||$2,329|
For more information, visit www.iihs.org.