Consumer Reports magazine has taken the rare step of yanking its “Recommended” rating for the Honda Fit minicar, a move that follows announcement that the Fit was one of 10 out of the 11 vehicles that failed a critical new crash test.
The current Fit model was, in fact, tied for the worst performance in the so-called small-overlap front crash test run by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a test designed to replicate what happens when two approaching cars clip one another on the highway, or when a vehicle strikes a pole or tree. Of the 11 vehicles tested by the IIHS, only the Chevrolet Spark received an Acceptable rating. The Fit was the only model – prior to the IIHS test – on the influential Consumer Reports Recommended list, however.
“Based on these findings, the Honda Fit lost its Recommended status,” the non-profit magazine announced. But the magazine also said it has hopes the Japanese minicar could soon earn its way back on the list, noting that, “A redesigned Honda Fit is due out this spring, which we would expect to pass the test based on the newness of its design and Honda’s recent accomplishments with this stringent test.”
Honda has more models on the recently announced list of the safest cars in America, according to the IIHS, a total of eight sold by the flagship Honda and upscale Acura brands. The safest cars list was sharply trimmed back from 130 to just 39 vehicles for 2014, reflecting the organization’s decision not to include vehicles that failed the small-overlap front crash test.
CR recently revised its own endorsement process to take into account the small-overlap front crash test, which was introduced by the IIHS in 2012 – and which is not part of any federal safety standard, at least for the moment. The insurance group will no longer give a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award to any model that does not pass the new test. And the magazine will not give a vehicle that fails a Recommended endorsement.
That last year resulted in CR pulling both the Toyota Prius and the Toyota Camry off its list, though an update to the latter model meant that Camry sedans produced since last November now pass the small-overlap test and are again CR-endorsed.
The speed with which Toyota responded to the slap it took from both organizations underscores how important the two recommendations are taken by safety-minded buyers in today’s market. And Honda was quick to note that it also wants to get back in the good graces of both Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute.
The maker launched an all-new version of the Fit at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week which will go on sale later this year. The 2015 model will add a number of new safety features and was specifically upgraded to address the demands of the small-overlap test, the maker says.
In a statement about the 2015 Fit, Honda says, “we anticipate it will earn top safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with a “Good” rating in all test modes including the rigorous small overlap front crash test. We also expect the 2015 Fit to earn the highest possible 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With these top test results, we intend to demonstrate that small cars can deliver outstanding crash test performance.”
(Most minicars fail new frontal crash tests. For more, Click Here.)
Meeting the new test is particularly difficult for smaller vehicles, noted IIHS. Industry analysts, meanwhile, say that it is a particularly significant challenge to retrofit an old vehicle to survive that type of crash – but it should be easier for makers to engineer in protection on all-new models.
The Chevy Spark was the only vehicle to record good injury measurements for all body regions, according to the IIHS. But even though the Korean-made minicar received an Acceptable rating, a statement from the IIHS noted it “doesn’t protect as well as a larger and heavier vehicle with a comparable rating.”
(Click Here for more on the 2015 Honda Fit.)
The safety group also noted that not a single model among the 11 minicars it tested offers front crash prevention – a radar-guided technology that can, at the minimum, warn a driver of a potential collision. As a result, none of the vehicles, including the Spark, qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.
“Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection,” said Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research. “Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”
But even in the small car category, a step up from minicars, only five of 17 models passed recent IIHS frontal crash tests.