Be careful if you drive a Kia Forte, Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Impreza sedan or wagon.
At least, that’s the message from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after the organization conducted testing of 11 new small cars.
When testing the Kia Forte, the occupant compartment structure was poorly maintained, and the driving dummy’s head hit the windowsill despite the side curtain airbag, revealing a significant risk of thoracic and pelvic injuries as well as a somewhat high risk of head or neck injuries and increasing the probability of moderate torso and pelvic injuries for the rear passenger.
The Subaru Crosstrek, Impreza sedan and Impreza wagon also performed poorly. The B-pillar and door panels significantly encroached into the passenger compartment’s survival zone, increasing the risk of torso injuries for the driver and rear passenger. Inadequate head protection caused the driver dummy’s head to move beyond the side curtain airbag and into the windowsill.
Small car crash protection is improving
Other test vehicles fared better — much better.
The IIHS rated the Mazda 3 sedan and Mazda 3 hatchback as good in its new tougher side crash tests — the only small cars to earn the rating.
“We are proud to add Mazda3 to the list of Mazda’s top performing vehicles in side impact safety,” said Mazda Manager of Vehicle Safety Compliance, Planning, & Development Jennifer Morrison. “It’s more challenging for a vehicle of its size. We took lessons learned from CX-5 and CX-9 to offer an equal level of occupant protection in our small car, the Mazda3.”
The Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla sedan, Toyota Corolla hatchback, Honda Civic sedan and Honda Civic hatchback were rated acceptable. All 11 vehicles earned good ratings in the original side test.
“It’s encouraging to see so many small cars with passing grades in this new side test,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller, who spearheaded the development of the evaluation. “Smaller, lower vehicles are at a disadvantage when struck by the new test barrier, which is a more realistic representation of the front end of a typical modern SUV than our old barrier. Clearly, some manufacturers have already figured out how to provide sufficient protection in a crash like this even for occupants of small cars.”
How the other sedans fared
The Mazda 3’s structure and safety cage withstood the new test, making the likelihood of most damage low. In addition, head-protecting airbags prevented the dummies’ heads from striking hard interior surfaces. However, there was a moderate risk of driver torso and pelvis injuries.
The IIHS found the structure and safety cages in the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla sedan, Toyota Corolla hatchback, Honda Civic sedan and Honda Civic hatchback all held up reasonably well.
But the crash test caused some intrusion into the passenger compartment, with head-protecting airbags preventing the dummies’ heads from striking hard interior surfaces in the Civics and Corollas. But the Toyotas and Hondas showed a significant risk of injury to the driver’s pelvis.
In the Sentra, the driver dummy’s head struck the windowsill despite the presence of a side curtain airbag. And it also indicated a moderate risk of pelvic injury. But its overall safety performance prevented it from being downgraded further.
A tougher test
The new tests show that a higher ride height brings better test results, as the impact strikes closer to the cabin floor. Results also suggest that a longer wheelbase also affects test scores.
“Doors tend to be weaker than the B-pillar and the frame surrounding the occupant compartment. Small cars have less of that weaker space because of their shorter wheelbase and occupant compartment,” said Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the Institute’s Vehicle Research Center.
The updated evaluation employs a heavier barrier moving at faster speed to simulate the striking vehicle in the new side accident assessment. The barrier now weights 4,200 pounds, about the same as today’s midsize SUVs, and strikes the vehicles at 37 mph. In the IIHS’s original side impact crash test, it used a 3,300-pound barrier striking the test car at 31 mph.