The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced March 6 that five additional vehicles have earned the Institute's Top Safety Pick+ highest level award based on their performance in the new small overlap front crash test.
The Honda Civic 2-door and 4-door, both small cars, and the Volvo XC60, a midsize luxury SUV, all earned good ratings for small overlap protection. The Lincoln MKZ, a midsize luxury car, and the Mazda 6, a midsize moderately priced car, both received an acceptable rating.
All are 2013 models except the Mazda 6, which is redesigned for 2014.
The Honda Civic, the first small car to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award, received significant front structure upgrades to improve small overlap performance, and engineers at Volvo updated the airbag algorithm to deploy the side curtain airbag in the small overlap test.
The previous IIHS top safety award was Top Safety Pick that was earned by getting a 'good' rating for occupant protection in four test categories that made up the IIHS evaluation until mid-2012.
Now the IIHS testing includes a fifth evaluation, the new small overlap test. The new small overlap test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object like a tree or utility pole
Just 18 vehicles have now earned the Top Safety Pick+ award because they received good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests, plus good or acceptable ratings in the new small overlap test..
The previous 13 vehicles that were awarded the Top Safety Pick+ award for 2013 are:
Midsize moderately priced cars
- Chrysler 200 4-door
- Dodge Avenger
- Ford Fusion built after Dec. 2012
- Honda Accord 2-door
- Honda Accord 4-door
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima 4-door built after Nov. 2012
- Subaru Legacy built after Aug. 2012
- Subaru Outback built after Aug. 2012
- Suzuki Kizashi
- Volkswagen Passat built after Oct. 2012
Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
- Acura TL
- Volvo S60
The small overlap frontal test was developed and added to IIHS testing in 2012 to help drive further improvements in frontal crash protection.
The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. This crash test is a challenge for some safety belt and airbag designs because occupants move both forward and toward the side of the vehicle in such a crash.
In the small overlap frontal test, a vehicle travels at 40 mph toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier. A dummy representing an average-size man is positioned in the driver seat. Twenty-five percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes the barrier on the driver side.
Most modern cars have safety cages encapsulating the occupant compartment and built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation. At the same time, crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment. The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50 percent of the front end. When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants.
Small overlap frontal crashes primarily affect a vehicle's outer edges, which aren't well protected by the crush-zone structures. Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, suspension system and firewall. It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries.
This test measures how effective the protection is in small overlap crashes where the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that aren't tempered by crush-zone structures.