Ten out of 13 midsize cars tested earned a “good” rating in a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test that evaluates vehicles’ passenger-side protection.
One car earned an “acceptable” rating and two earned a “marginal” rating in the test, which was developed to ensure that automakers pay attention to the safety of front passengers as well as drivers.
“The test was developed after it became clear that some manufacturers were giving short shrift to the right side of the vehicle when it comes to small overlap front crash protection,” IIHS said.
A “good” or “acceptable” passenger-side rating will be required to qualify for the institute’s 2018 Top Safety Pick+ award.
Among the midsize cars, all of which have good driver-side ratings, the Subaru Outback was one of the top performers in the new test. Its “good” passenger-side rating also applies to its twin, the Subaru Legacy.
Their good ratings are notable, IIHS said, given that the 2014 Subaru Forester earned a “marginal” rating in the earlier tests. The Forester’s rating carries forward through the 2018 model year.
In the test of the Outback, the passenger’s space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the right edge of the toepan, according to IIHS. The safety belt and front and side curtain airbags worked together to keep the dummy in place, and measures taken from the dummy showed there would be a low risk of injury in a similar real-world crash.
The Chevrolet Malibu and the Volkswagen Passat each earned a “marginal” passenger-side rating. In both cars, the passenger dummy’s head slid off the front airbag and contacted the dashboard. Measures taken from the dummy showed head injuries would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity, according to IIHS.
Overall, however, the first test group in the passenger-side small overlap front test program did better than vehicles IIHS previously evaluated for research, according to the institute.
In contrast with a group of 2014-2016-model small SUVs tested for research, none of the 2017-2018 midsize cars had a “poor” or “marginal” structural rating. Instead, the biggest problem in the new group was inconsistent airbag protection in five cars, which could put passengers’ heads at risk, IIHS noted.
“The midsize cars we tested didn’t have any glaring structural deficiencies on the right side,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller. “Optimizing airbags and safety belts to provide better head protection for front-seat passengers appears to be the most urgent task now.”