The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released the latest results from its ongoing safety tests, which exceed the standards imposed by the U.S. government. In the latest side-impact tests, five 2009 coupes were crunched, including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Scion tC, small models all, although technically the Volvo C30 is rated as a mid-size car.
In the Institute’s side impact test, the C30 and Focus are rated good in results, which simulate an SUV hitting the side of a car at 31 mph. What’s interesting about the Volvo and Ford ratings is the Ford obtained the same “good” as the Volvo, even though it is built from an older version of a shared platform. It is just one example of the challenges Volvo faces maintaining its long-standing reputation for safety as all makers continue to improve their performance in the tests. And the good here does not allow for further distinctions.
The Civic, Cobalt, and tC models are rated a notch down at “acceptable.” Caveat: the Cobalt’s rating applies to vehicles built after May 2009, when General Motors modified its curtain airbags.
It is the side airbags that appear key to the positive results, as all of these cars had side airbags. In 2003, facing federal regulation, automakers promised to voluntarily put side airbags in their vehicles as standard equipment by the 2010 model year.
The Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in front- and side-crash tests. The third, rear-impact test, measures how well vehicle seats and head restraints protect people against neck injury in low-speed rear crashes.
Side impacts are the second most common type of fatal crash. More than 8,000 people were killed in side impacts in 2007. This compares with more than 14,000 deaths in frontal crashes.
Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle’s structural performance during the impact.