By on October 4, 2013

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Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducts its own independent crash testing of new cars, added the “small overlap test” to its rating procedures. That particular crash test simulates a 40 mph collision wherein the front driver side corner of the car strikes an oncoming car or a fixed object like a utility or light pole. Twenty five percent of highway deaths in head-on collisions are from that type of wreck. The IIHS yesterday released test results for the newly redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla and the compact sedan only received a “marginal” score. According to Automotive News, the Corolla cannot earn the institute’s Top Safety Pick honors, which are restricted to cars that have “acceptable” or “good” scores on all crash tests. 

Since the small overlap crash procedure was implemented last year, Toyota products have fared poorly. The 2013 Camry, Prius V hybrid and RAV4 crossover all earned a “poor” rating. When the IIHS only included traditional front, side and rollover testing in their ratings, Toyota typically has done well, with 21 of their models earning the Top Safety Pick honors for the 2013 model year.

In a statement a Toyota spokesman said that the company is devoted to safety but also questioned whether the new test accurately reflects real world conditions. “When all-new crash tests are introduced by the [IIHS], we need to be confident that the changes needed to accommodate the tests will enhance overall safety in real world crashes,” Toyota spokesman John Hanson said. “Toyota is committed to responding to this challenge as stridently as it has in the past, when met with more demanding and evolving vehicle performance criteria.”

In August, the 2014 Scion tC received an “acceptable” rating in the offset test, but the Corolla results may indicate that the company has work to do on other models. The Corolla’s “marginal” ranking was because the corner of the car was pushed back into the driver’s area, increasing the probability of leg injuries. Also, the crash test dummy’s head moved to the left in the collision, away from the main air bag, which might result in the driver’s head hitting the A pillar or dashboard. Fortunately, the 2014 Corolla is equipped with side curtain airbags, which protected the dummy’s head.

Look for a review of the 2014 Toyota Corolla here at TTAC early next week.

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79 Comments on “Insurance Institute Gives Redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla Only “Marginal” Score On Small Overlap Crash Test...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    This test is required if 25% of all deaths on the road are due to something similar Of course no test can accurately cover every type of overlap crash. I note that Honda and others manage to pass this.

    • 0 avatar

      The 25% figure is of fatalities in head on collisions, not of all road deaths.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Thanks for the correction.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        So how many deaths is that? Is it 25% of 100 fatalities, or 25% of 10000? At what point do we just have to accept that there is a reasonable number of fatalities, beyond which reducing them impacts OTHER aspects of design too much? Weight in particular. Cost too. I already think that side impact and roll-over protection are compromising sight-lines more than is necessary. I would rather have a car I can see out of that has a slightly higher chance of my getting me killed in an actual crash.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          +1 I can’t begin to tell you how many bad highway accidents I’ve avoided thanks to decent sight-lines.

          With the way that safetys going we’re all going to end up in gray overstyled tanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        There’s the rub. ALL head-on collisions cause fatalities, it’s the worst kind of collision to be in. That’s why even two lane roads, if they have heavy, high speed traffic, are being fitted with median barriers.

        Highway engineers go out of their way to design roads to minimize the possibility of that type of crash, and it’s a small percentage of annual occurrences. In a one car accident, hitting a barrier at 40MPH usually involves an impaired driver or other unusual circumstance. That’s also a small percentage of accidents.

        The IIHS has its own agenda of reducing insurance claims, but taking all possible measures has other effects, reducing fuel mileage and performance, and greatly increasing costs. Getting behind the wheel has always been a gamble, but the “house” may be going too far to minimize its own risks, to the detriment of those doing the gambling.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “The 25% figure is of fatalities in head on collisions”

        The figure is for front-end collisions (including single-car crashes), not just head-on collisions (which involve two vehicles hitting each other head on.)

        The small overlap test is intended to measure what can happen when hitting a fixed object that doesn’t deform on impact, such as a tree or utility pole. It’s outside of the normal crush zone, so the energy gets transferred along the side of the car and straight into the passenger compartment.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      A lot of the cars have yet to be tested — the small overlap test is new.

      And no, most of those that were tested did not do all that well. Only the Honda Civic received the top “Good” rating. The Cruze, Sonic and Beetle were also rated “marginal”, while the Forte, Soul and Sentra were worse, with a rating of “poor.”

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/v/class-summary/small-cars

      On the whole, the industry is not prepared well for this. There is going to need to be some furious reengineering going on throughout the industry if they wish to earn high rankings.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Agreed only some cars have been assessed. But according to Autoblog the Civic, Dart, Focus and Elantra all achieved acceptable or good (Civic only). So four competitors in the compact car class have done better. That is relevant.

        I also agree that some in the industry are not well prepared, as shown by multiple models (such as the RAV4, Camry and Prius) failing to be at least acceptable.

        • 0 avatar
          stuntmonkey

          In retrospec, Honda taking the time to beef up the updated Civic for the small-offset can-opener test was genius. That’s going to have a longer lasting uplift on sales than the cosmetic refresh.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Agreed, this is something I’d expect from Hondas “Golden Era”, proper improvements instead of percieved attempts via face-lifts.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “That’s going to have a longer lasting uplift on sales than the cosmetic refresh.”

            If people really pay attention to these test results. I don’t know that they do. I still see people who don’t wear their seat belts and there’s a fine for that.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            People are very apt to pay attention to crash test results after being in a totaling wreck, which also (in some cases) means your insurance goes up, which makes one of these small cars make even more sense.
            I’ve noticed that people that have been in major car wrecks that are “lucky to be alive” suddenly have a very high respect for these results.

            As for seatbelts, well I’m not that old I can’t recall life before mandatory seatbelts (aside from rear seats not requiring seatbelts up to a few years ago), I simply feel naked without seatbelts.

  • avatar
    whynot

    The car earns the Top Safety Pick honors as that does not include this test.

    It doesn’t get a Top Safety Pick+ designation however.

    • 0 avatar

      From the Automotive News:

      “The Corolla, as a result, will not qualify for any IIHS honors in 2014, when an “acceptable” or “good” score on the small overlap test will become a prerequisite for either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ honors.”

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        From the IIHS press release:

        “In the earlier tests of the small cars, half earned a good or acceptable rating for occupant protection in a small overlap crash and qualified for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation. Six other small cars earned marginal or poor ratings.

        The Corolla currently qualifies for the 2013 Top Safety Pick award, without the +, for good ratings in the Institute’s four other tests — moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear.”

        http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/redesigned-toyota-corolla-earns-marginal-rating-in-small-overlap-front-crash-test

        I guess they are changing things for next year, but I don’t know how the ratings work, do they renew them every year unless the car undergoes a change?

  • avatar
    segfault

    If memory serves, Honda worked with the IIHS to improve the performance of its newer vehicles. I presume that the same information and assistance would have been available to any manufacturer who bothered to go to the trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Toyota was provided time to make some changes to the new RAV4, but it ended up with a “poor” rating on the small overlap test, anyway.

      Presumably, the changes that are necessary were too great for the current design. However, it’s also rated as a “Top Safety Pick,” which may confusing to some shoppers.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I can see how it will be confusing to be either “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick +”. It will be easy to miss that extra “+”. Maybe they need to have a new designation.

        • 0 avatar
          IndianaDriver

          Easy – get rid of so many Top Safety Pick designations. I look forward to the new IIHS 2014 test rules that no longer allow marginal or poor scores in any category for the Top Safety Pick label.

  • avatar
    morbo

    Funny how the OEM’s will exclaim how awesome they are when they pass an independent test, but then claim it’s ‘unrealistic’ or ‘flawed’ when they fail.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    HULK SMASH!

    That didn’t look very good. That A-pillar bent up quite a lot more than it should’ve.

    My Corolla experience: I’ve driven an 05 Corolla a couple times for a decent distance, as well as ridden as passenger in a different 05 Corolla a few times. It was numb, buzzy, and felt way underpowered in attempting entrance ramps with traffic doing 70-75 mph. Granted, I’ve never owned an economy car such as that, but I can’t see them selling on ANY merit other than reliability. Scratch that, I did own a 97 Impreza hatch for a short while as a winter car. It was nicer to drive and less buzzy. It also felt better made.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Comparing a rental Dodge Avenger and a rental Corolla and I felt that the Avengers interior was better made and more solid, shame the exterior body panels were mis-matched.

      Its typical for eceonomy cars to feel underpowered though, the trick is getting the power band right which is a pain in the foor with todays over-geared automatic transmissions.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It’s a tough test, as others have noted many haven’t done all that well (while Subaru is apparently owning this). The counter-argument is this test wasn’t a surprise to Toyota as they developed the 2014, and it doesn’t diminish the other problems.

    Ya, I get it, the 1.8L has been updated through the years, but at its core its still the same ‘ye old 1.8 with the same ‘ye old HP numbers. GM did three generations on the 3.8L V6 with lots of improvements, but fundamentally it was still the ‘ye old iron block 3.8 V6 putting out 200 HP through its life.

    No car (and yes Chevrolet I’m looking at the Spark also) has no business with a 4-speed automatic in 2014 – and some internet digging can find Detroit being roasted in the press ten years ago for offering 4-speed automatics. Ya I get it, just the Hertz special fleet versions get the 4-speed, nothing like giving a good perception to fleet drivers in corporate fleets and at the rental counter.

    Product refresh after product refresh, Toyota just seems to be phoning it in. Shoot they could have just looked at Honda with the Civic and GM with the Malibu and could have easily figured out, “we need to step up our game.”

    I find it disappointing they didn’t do better.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The reality is that the average person who is in the market for a Corolla will neither know nor care how many speeds the gearbox has. They are going to put it in D, and step on the gas pedal, and the car is going to go. The automaker will fit a better box for competitive or CAFE reasons, but the end-user for the most part will not care one whit.

      If you have enough interest in cars to hangout on TTAC, you are likely NOT the target market for a base Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yup, and those 132 horses will move 2800 pounds more than fast enough for that person, too.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        That is exactly the argument Chrysler used with the Neon, putting in a 3 speed automatic. The car’s numbers were not so bad, but the perception was that Chrysler was in the stone age.

        • 0 avatar
          mik101

          No that was because the 4spd did nothing but overheat once they did put it in there.
          So they back-pedal, stick the Kcar 3speed on it, until they can make it work in the second generation neon. at which point they still screw up the gearing.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      I’m not particularly surprised, IMO Toyota have been resting on their laurels regarding innovation and development the last couple of years. Having driven a number of rental corollas and camrys I can’t imagine owning one. These are certainly not the market leading cars of the 80s and 90s in ways that matter to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Nedloh

      Agreed

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I still don’t understand why 4 speeds are put down, they’ve been out for so long that most problems have been worked out, I’d honestly chose a 4 speed over a 6 speed if it would save me $200.

      If the buyers don’t care, then what reason do automakers have to cater for a bunch of people on a car website, most with no intention of purchasing their companies product even if they corrected all perceived problems.

      How many sales do you honestly think GM has lost on the spark for its 4 speed? Toyota with corolla? Not all cars are performance cars, using old technology means its more affordable and better tested, another plus.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        It really depends on the engine, a casual car with a torquey 2 litre 4, 6, or an 8 will work alright with a 4-speed automatic, but if you end up with a smaller engine you’re going to want at least 5-gears to compensate for the small engine.

        Take it from me, I’ve driven everything from 2-cylinders, turbo 4s, 6s, and an 8.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          True.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          The obsession with sticker mileage means that many of the 5 and 6 speed transmissions in the 4 cylinder crapbox segment are using those extra gears as either close very low gears to avoid running rich on the low speed treadmill or extra overdrives that aren’t used for acceleration at all.

          The 4 speed Corolla (12/18/26 mph / 1k), 5 speed Civic (11/16/23), 6 speed Elantra (13/17/23) and 6 speed Cruz (13/19/26) are all pretty much the same in the middle where it counts.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      How many times does one need to drill this into your head – the 1.8 debuted with the 2009 Corolla and is 5 years old. Nowhere near the age of GM’s 3.8 liter boat anchor.
      End of discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I like the 1.8L. I like the 4-speed. You can buy this Corolla and drive it until you die.

      “ye olde” all you want but 3800s, Vulcans, VZs, and 307s will still be on road long after every Northstar has been turned into soda cans and every new touchscreen has shorted out and bricked the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Tostik

      Actually only Volvo has “owned” this new test by the IIHS. The S60 and XC60 are the two Volvos that have been tested, and they both got the highest score of ‘good’. After the first batch of tests, the IIHS said that car companies don’t do this kind of crash testing, then later said that Volvo had been testing their cars this way since 1984! If the IIHS could come up with more surprise tests, then Volvo would shine all the more. But the IIHS doesn’t have the crash test facilities that Volvo has — come to think of it , nobody else does either.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Volvo and, of all manufacturers, freaking Mitsubishi have done the best overall, although they’ve only tested the new Outlander and current Outlander Sport. Toyota is almost an across the line fail, with even new designs folding up shockingly easily. Volkswagen and Audi haven’t faired too well, either. The recently introduced A4 ripped open violently and the Passat CC (granted, an older design) had its door fly open then simply shear off. The Jetta and jumbo-ized American Passat faired somewhat better, surprisingly. I’ve been watching this test unfold with some interest.

        • 0 avatar
          Tostik

          Just looked at the IIHS website, and the Outlander Sport got an ‘acceptable’ rating for the Small Overlap. Volvo, who is 2 for 2 with ‘good’ ratings, is still the only car make batting a 1000 on this test. Honda, Subaru, and Mitsu did well, but Volvo has done the best.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This is going to require a complete re-engineering of each cars crumple zone and materials, I suggest a rounded triangular design for crumple zones so that in an accident like this the cars in the accident will be pushed away from one another as the bodies absorb their impacts.

    The main beam of strength in the center of the car would naturally be collapsable in the case of a head-on collision, it would collapse along with the cars engine falling through the bottom.

    But then again who cares? To automakers this just means an excuse for a slightly wider platform and another face-lift.

    The best accident is the one that you can avoid, and to avoid them we must start by paying more attention to the road.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      > The best accident is the one that you can avoid, and to avoid them we must start by paying more attention to the road.

      The problem is that the small-offset test is for something that *you barely didn’t avoid*, and as you can see in the videos, the forces pry part the front quarter of the car. I can certainly image a real life instance of this, say somebody driving tired at night and cross into on-coming traffic. The saving grace is that this type of collision seems to be relatively infrequent.

      Interesting that there are two approaches to this test. Honda goes for the impenetrable firewall approach, the engine bay absorbs the forces but the A-pillar remains intact. The Volvo’s seem to take a different tack, with a stronger wheel well… the impact seems to be deflected away from the a-pillar. (Note that the Volvo’s ‘bounce’ off of the barrier more than the Honda’s

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats true, and with todays cars being as wide as they are small-offset tests matter more than ever. It used to be just the bigger American cars that were wide but not so much today.

        Interesting observations that you noted, its a weird coincedence that Volvo would happen to use a method like the one I suggested, its nice to see two carmakers approach the same issue in different but still effective matters though.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The real-life example is hitting something such as a tree. That scenario may include drivers who attempt to steer around it, but then fail to complete the maneuver.

        Those drivers may have been better off hitting the tree or pole straight on so that were protected by the crush zone. But it’s a panic situation, reaction time is minimal and there may have been little room for error, so they end up hitting it with little to protect them.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The test is offset from the centerline of the car, but the impact is still parallel to the centerline. People in an incomplete avoidance maneuver are likely hitting the object at an angle, something this test doesn’t take into account.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      I was thinking more along the lines of switching to an Abode mixture….

  • avatar

    uh-oh

  • avatar
    Wacko

    This means nothing, since we all know that corolla drivers don’t drive 40 mph. They must redo the test for corolla drivers speed, more like 20 MPH

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Didn’t they do offset head-on collisions like this in the late 70′s? Or was that something different?

    A quick youtube search showed some “offset head front” tests that involved old Volvos, I won’t spoil the results.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ll spoil the results! The Volvo’s longitudinal engine squashed the front passenger! (That video was too long to watch, IF you can still find the complete version). The late model French subcompact did very well, though the impact was parallel to the centerline of both cars. In a real world accident, you’d expect one or both drivers to attempt to avoid the impact, producing an angle of impact that would be far less severe than what was produced, and the impact wasn’t the edge-on type in the IIHS test, but involved at least part of the crushable center of the front end. The Volvo was an old one, with its underlying condition unremarked, if not unknown. you have to wonder about the wear and tear of a late 1970s Volvo wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Actually, if it was the video I have seen the Volvo was a 945 or 965, which puts it ’91-’98 in Europe. I believe it was one of the older 945s though. So a design of the early late 70s early 80s, being an updated 745, which basically debuted in ’82 I believe. A very safe car for those days, but time has marched on.

        When you get up into the 40-50+ mph regime, lady luck starts to play a large factor in how well you do in a crash. You can help the odds a bit by driving something better than a tin box, but in a world where we share the roads with trucks weighing up to 120,000lbs+, it doesn’t really matter all that much IMHO. Drive defensively, and pay attention. If you get runover by a truck in an S-class, you might leave a marginally prettier corpse than the guy run over in a Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        It was very early 240-260s in the test videos, I know for a fact that they improved the safety as the cars went on and re-designed the engine mounts to drop the engine in head-on collisions.

        Its true though, its best we just pay attention and stop fiddling around with our toys.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    There is also distracted driving, thick A pillars and huge mirrors to make driving less safe.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      And smartphone inergration, huge bright touscreens just to the drivers right, and the upmost sound isolation so that your attention will only be diverted by the whistling of your Ipad 9C.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Thank you!

      I won’t drive my son’s Prius because of the effin’ pillars & mirror. They ruin what could be an awesome car for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Earlier Prius’s and Insights weren’t that bad in those regards.

        With Prius’s I do question their green credo when I take into consideration the amount of resources they take to build compared to their longevity.

        Though the taxi Prius I sat in wasn’t that bad, more spacious than the Crown Vic!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If they fitted the Corolla with a breathalyzer ignition interlock, it would immediately become more safe.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That might not help that much. If there were a sensor that could smell cosmetics, coffee, cheeseburgers and fries, and Big Gulps while the car is moving, you’d have something.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Ever since the ’70s I’ve wanted patchouli sensors mandated that would kill the engine, flash the lights and sound the horn to make it easy for the soylent trucks to find.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    From looking at a few of these small overlap crash tests, it seems the best results are from cars where the A-pillar doesn’t deflect(obvious); where the car is deflected by the barrier and moves in a more-or-less forward direction (as opposed to being spun by the barrier–though being spun seems to be the case for the vast majority); and where the front wheel is sheared off (or in at least one case–the Honda Odyssey–where the aluminum rim shatters). So to succeed in this test, a vehicle apparently should have a reinforced A-pillar and surrounding structute, a triangular engine cradle and a front wheel that is attached with paper clips and epoxy.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Toyota is having near-universal problems with this test in their lineup and they need to figure it out for reputation reasons alone.

    However, when the best selling vehicle in America is a 6000 pound F150, I don’t think it is that foolish or unreasonable to not place this small overlap test in the highest priority when deciding on a car. No standardized crash test measures the real-world results of a 2800lb economy car or 3400lb family sedan getting nailed by a full size pickup, SUV, or minivan, all of which are a really good possibility considering how many of those vehicles are on the road. The Camry vs. Yaris and Accord vs. Fit IIHS tests of a few years ago showed the importance of mass. They really ought to do a C-segment vs. full size pickup test.

    Do we really think a top-rated Civic will fare significantly better when clobbered by one of these behemoths than a lower-rated Corolla?

    If the crash test above really frightens you, your best bet is to move up to a heavier class of vehicle, or pay more attention while driving and rely on passive safety feature like ABS and stability control to help you avoid it in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      You are correct. Mass wins. A smaller vehicle with a + rating is a joke. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to take a basic physics class.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Todays sloping low “sporty” front ends don’t help matters either, I’ve seen at least few accidents where cars are either driven over or scouped up thanks to their “style”.

      Funny thing is, on youtube theres an old crash test with a full-size truck going head on with a Dodge Omni, both came out equal though if you were in the Omni you might come out missing a tooth.

      • 0 avatar
        BMWnut

        Aren’t the low frontends meant to save pedestrians? Sounds like the law of inintended consequences making the car more safe in one way and less safe in another way.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The small overlap test isn’t particularly germane to small cars protecting themselves from large pickups.

      The small overlap test most closely resembles hitting a tree or pole. Those are typically one-car crashes.

    • 0 avatar
      etho1416

      If you check out Hondas “ace” steel structure info it does seem like they are at least trying to deal with different sized cars hitting each other head on. I have read that their new design is the reason they have passed the small overlap test with flying colors. I would be interested to see how they do in a new version of that IIHS test where they go up against a heavier and taller car.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        Depends on which Honda you’re talking about. The CRV got a ‘marginal’ on the Small Overlap — I wouldn’t call that passing at all. The 2 door Accord got an ‘acceptable’, which I would call passing, but not with flying colors. The three Hondas that got a ‘good’, the 4 door Accord,the Civic, and the Odyssey, passed with flying colors.

  • avatar
    PolestarBlueCobalt

    Not a surprise that an essentially 10 year old car failed.

  • avatar
    Tostik

    The 11 year old Volvo XC90 just got a ‘good’ on the small overlap test. Volvo is now 3 for 3 with ‘good’ scores on this new test–the only car company that’s a 100%. Meanwhile, car companies like Toyota/Lexus, VW/Audi, Mercedes, and BMW, continue to struggle with this test – even with recent model cars.


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