The 2013 Cadillac ATS is the third vehicle to receive perfect marks in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, and a host of other 2013-model cars and SUVs nearly all earned overall scores of either four or five out of five stars, according to data recently posted to safercar.gov.
The ATS, an entry-luxury sedan, joins the competing Volvo S60 and the Chevrolet Camaro performance coupe, at earning five out of five stars in every category and subcategory of the NHTSA evaluations – driver and front-passenger protection in a 35-mph frontal impact, driver and rear-passenger protection in a 38.5-mph side impact, driver protection in a 20-mph side impact into a pole, and a mathematical rollover resistance computation.
A growing number of cars have scored the top rating of five out of five stars overall – a combined score taking into account each of those six subcategories. Perfect scores used to be the norm, but few cars earned five stars in 2011 when the safety agency redesigned its tests to be more challenging. That has already changed as automakers redesign their products and institute running changes.
The 2013 Jeep Compass compact crossover SUV, meanwhile, was the only newly tested vehicle to earn less than four out of five stars overall; it earned three stars for frontal-impact protection and just two for protecting the rear passenger in a side-impact. (The Compass was launched as a 2007 model and will be replaced after the 2014 model year, but NHTSA had not previously tested it.)
Cars that improved to five stars for the 2013 model year in the most recently posted tests include the Ford Focus and Volkswagen New Beetle compact cars; the Ford Fusion midsize sedan; the Lexus ES and Mercedes-Benz C-Class entry-luxury sedans; and all-wheel-drive version of the Lexus RX entry-luxury SUV (front-drive models remain at four stars). The Fusion's scores also apply to the 2013 Lincoln MKZ entry-luxury sedan.
Two more new compact sedans to earn five stars (newly introduced and not previously tested) are the Buick Verano and Dodge Dart.
Meanwhile, several new models fell short of top scores. Four-star models include the Nissan Sentra compact sedan, Ford C-Max compact hybrid station wagon, and Infiniti JX / Nissan Pathfinder large crossover SUV.
Three newly tested 2013s also earned four stars: the Lexus IS entry-luxury sedan, and the Jeep Patriot and Volkswagen Tiguan compact crossovers. The IS will be fully redesigned for the 2014 model year; the Patriot will be replaced after 2014. The Patriot is a mechanical twin of the three-star Jeep Compass, but it fared better in side-impact testing.
These NHTSA tests, conducted under the New Car Assessment Program, are more challenging than the requirements all cars must pass to go on sale in the U.S. NHTSA's tests complement safety evaluations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which tests cars in similar but not identical crash scenarios.