Only three of the seven midsize automobiles tested received good or acceptable ratings for overall safety in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s most recent round of midsize sedan crash tests.
Overall, the seven popular midsize automobiles did not perform as well in crash tests as the small and midsize SUVs that were previously tested by the organization. But even in those tests only one small SUV, the Mazda CX-5, earned a good rating.
Midsize SUVs fared better, with the Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Aviator, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport and Volkswagen ID.4 all earning good rating.
For this test, the IIHS examined the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, and the Volkswagen Jetta, and the results were not good.
How they fared
Only the Subaru Outback received a good rating among the midsize sedans that were evaluated. Despite having higher levels of occupant compartment intrusion, the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta nevertheless receive acceptable ratings. In the Outback, Sonata, and Jetta, head-protecting airbags for the driver and rear passenger operated well, resulting in a minimal risk of head and neck injuries.
Across the board, the Subaru earned good or acceptable safety ratings in all categories. That said, the Outback’s higher ride height versus the other vehicles tested here most likely contributed to its good showing. Testing a Subaru Legacy would have been a fairer comparison.
The VW Jetta earned marginal scores for driver’s pelvis protection and rear passenger torso protection, but otherwise scored good or acceptable in its other categories. The Sonata earned a marginal score for the rear passenger’s pelvis protection, but otherwise also scored good or acceptable in its other categories.
Other sedans’ safety seems spotty
Other vehicles fared worse.
The Honda Accord earned a marginal rating in overall safety, while the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry garnered poor ratings.
The IIHS noted the Honda Accord suffered from moderate intrusion of the B-pillar into the occupant compartment, earning a marginal rating for safety cage and structure. Injury measures for the driver’s pelvis were somewhat elevated, and the driver’s head moved down past the side curtain airbag, hitting the windowsill during the crash, earning marginal scores for both driver head and pelvis protection.
The Toyota Camry, America’s most popular midsize sedan, did a poor job of protecting occupants, with marginal scores for driver’s head, torso and pelvis protection and poor protection for the rear passenger’s pelvis. Other measurements were good or acceptable.
The Nissan Altima also received a poor score for overall safety, structure and safety cage, and driver’s torso and pelvis protection. It earned a marginal score for head and neck injury, and driver’s head protection. Rear seat protection was good in all categories.
The Chevrolet Malibu also earned a poor rating for overall safety, with poor ratings for structure and safety cage, and driver’s head and neck injury. It earned a marginal rank for driver pelvis protection, driver head protection and rear passenger head protection.
In fact, in IIHS tests of the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, the heads of either the driver or rear passenger dummy or both slipped below the side curtain airbag, striking the windowsill, which would cause injuries.
Why they fared poorly
Midsize sedans lower ride height versus that of crossovers and SUVs is causing a reduction in safety for those in passenger cars, according to the IIHS. Pickups, SUVs and Crossover SUVS account for nearly 80% if new vehicle sales, with the rest being cars with lower ride heights.
“With vehicles that sit lower to the ground, the striking barrier hits higher on the door panel,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That potentially puts sedans and wagons at a disadvantage in this evaluation but reflects what happens in a real-world crash when these vehicles are struck by a higher-riding pickup or SUV.”
The test vehicles in the IIHS side crash test are struck at 37 mph by a barrier that weighs 4,200 pounds, about the same as today’s midsize SUVs. It is a revision of an earlier test that employed a barrier weighing 3,300 pounds moving at 31 mph.
All of the vehicles in the latest round of IIHS testing earned good ratings in the older side crash test. The new side crash test will be included for 2023 ratings. The organization said that a good or acceptable rating will be required in 2023 for the lower-tier “Top Safety Pick” award and a good rating will be needed for the higher-tier “Top Safety Pick+.”