By on July 24, 2008

With full-sized pickups taking a hosing, manufacturers may be looking towards smaller trucks to stem the bleeding. But a recent test of five compact pickups by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that they don't share the crash safety advantages of their full-sized brethren.The IIHS' first-ever side-impact test of compact pickups shows that all but the barely-compact Tacoma (which scored a "good") offer sub-standard side protection in crashes. The Dodge Dakota/Mitsubishi Raider, Nissan Frontier and Ranger/B-series earned "marginal" ratings, while the Chevy Colorado rated a dead-last "poor." The IIHS says that side-impacts are the second most common type of fatal crash, accounting for 9k deaths last year. Accordingly, the Institutes say that small pickups have the highest rates of driver deaths in accidents "of any vehicles on the road, including minicars," and that the small trucks "aren't good choices for people looking for safe transportation…until they improve." Still, some of the improvements that the IIHS recommends (stability control, side airbags) will soon become standard on some of these trucks, and optional on others. But if you think a compact pickup is any safer than say, a compact car, this might just be your wake-up call.


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24 Comments on “Small Trucks Pickup Poor Crash Test Ratings...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    I’d guess they have lower death rates than motorcycles.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    Tha abysmal crash test results of the Ranger platform was a factor in my getting rid of mine. Given that the Ranger dates back to the early 80s I can sort of forgive the poor results.

    But the Colorado getting a POOR? WTF? The thing was designed much more recently.

  • avatar

    This is another arena where the ancient Ranger beats the “modern” Colorado. I can’t believe my eyes.

    I’m not surprised at how well the Taco did, but the Frontier is only as good as the Ranger?

    Compact trucks are a strange breed indeed.

  • avatar

    But the Colorado getting a POOR? WTF? The thing was designed much more recently.

    The Colorado got a Poor rating because its dummy struck the moving obstruction in the test.

    (Edit: Like a lot of people said, also because of general intrusion. Sorry, I needed to check that again.)

    I for one think that this test is pretty poor. It does indeed show why these vehicles should have side-curtain airbags and ESC but the argument that it means compact trucks are unsafe is unfounded. It’s instructive that the only truck with airbags–the Tacoma–got a “Good” while the others without airbags got Marginal or Poor ratings. To put that in perspective, the Ford Escape without airbags got a “Poor” for the 2001-2007 models. When they had them, they got a “Good” rating.

    http://www.iihs.org/ratings/earliermodels.aspx?class=58

    I refuse to accept that the Chevy Colorado is “unsafe” (although clearly not quite as safe as its rivals) until I see its performance with its side-curtain airbags, which will be standard for the 09MY. (If I remember correctly)

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    Other than the Tacoma, current small trucks are at the design level of the previous generation of full sized pickups, which were surprisingly poor, safety wise: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6b2_1186865238

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The crash test on the colorado showed not just head impact, but general intrusion into the seating area.

  • avatar
    86er

    Sajeev:

    Compact trucks are a strange breed indeed.

    You’re telling me. For the hell of it, I looked at the financing terms for an 08 Dakota.

    Do you want to guess the rate? This being at the same time as they’re trying to give away their Rams?

    12.99%

  • avatar

    GS650G Says: The crash test on the colorado showed not just head impact, but general intrusion into the seating area.

    And significant chassis movement: check out the hood, bumpers, roof, etc. Look at the Taco, not much impact there.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    So…….once again!

    Toyota = Best!
    GM = Worst!

    Why am I not surprised!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Body-on-frame rocks my world.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Having a collision while riding in a small metal box is less safe than having a collision while riding in a big metal box? Amazing.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    This test has always sort of bothered me. The video doesn’t mention two additional factors:

    1. the dummies used are 5’0″ tall: used to represent a small woman driver or a 10-year-old child, but still significantly smaller than the vast majority of the population, and
    2. the taller crash sled is also narrower, to represent rounded-front pickups (we’re looking at you, Dodge Ram)

    this means two things: the dummies are, at the expense of statistical likelihood, WAY more likely to receive head injuries. similarly, all the impact is concentrated on the B-Pillar, which also happens very rarely in real life, but produces a more dire test result, since it bypasses most of the safety cage.

    having said that: HAHA MY SCION XB PERFORMED BETTER THAN YOUR COLORADO NEENER NEENER NEENER :D *I* may get the same fatal head injury that you do, but at least my backseat occupants have a fighting chance! So there!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Having a collision while riding in a small metal box is less safe than having a collision while riding in a big metal box? Amazing.

    Getting into a collision in a small metal eggshell is more safe than getting into a collision in a small metal can sitting atop a pair of beams.

    Body on frame has it’s good points, but crash safety is not one of them. The safety cage in a BoF vehicle crumples badly, especially when hit in a manner where the frame rails aren’t taking the impact.

    That said, is there any real point to a BoF trucklet when a good unibody can tow about the same amount without compromising handling or crash safety?

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    50merc Says:
    Having a collision while riding in a small metal box is less safe than having a collision while riding in a big metal box? Amazing.

    Uh, wrong. You somehow came to the exact opposite of the correct conclusion. IIHS isn’t saying “small pickups are bad because they’re not big pickups,” it’s saying “these small pickups are bad because they were designed poorly.” Like, without anything but a sheet of glass between your head and the hood of the incoming Silverado.

    Based on the tests, you’d have a better chance in a Fit than a Colorado. Unless you enjoy massive head trauma…?

  • avatar
    davey49

    Just make sure you order the side airbags and you’ll be OK. The IIHS tests just pretty much say airbags good no airbags bad.
    86er- How did you come up with 12.99%? I get 0% to 5.9% depending on length for the APR offer. 12.99 sounds like a “bad credit” loan. Of course the Rams are all at 0%

  • avatar
    monkeyboy

    “Toyota = Best!
    GM = Worst!

    Why am I not surprised!”

    I see a draw withOUT airbags. It’s a tesimony to the benefit of aside impact airbags.

    The vehicles are all very similar in this segment. There is just as much movement in either.

    Taco has huge movement when the tailgate is dropped with out the tailgate shock. That is afterall, why it’s there! This speaks to lack of structure in the beaming of the frame.

  • avatar

    Based on the tests, you’d have a better chance in a Fit than a Colorado. Unless you enjoy massive head trauma…?

    JuniorMint, again, the Colorado was tested without standard side airbags, the Fit was tested with standard side airbags. The Colorado can be bought with side airbags, but the IIHS decided to test it without, to show consumers what they’d be in for if they decided to try to save a good $500 or so from their vehicle’s cost.

    Uh, wrong. You somehow came to the exact opposite of the correct conclusion. IIHS isn’t saying “small pickups are bad because they’re not big pickups,” it’s saying “these small pickups are bad because they were designed poorly.”

    No, it’s saying “Just because a vehicle is a truck doesn’t mean it’s safe.” The fact that any of the vehicles without curtain airbags got even marginal ratings is surprising. Ever seen the results for a Corolla without side curtain airbags? How about a Ford Escape or Toyota RAV-4? All of these vehicles, when without side curtain airbags, get Poor ratings from the IIHS.

    Bottom line: Always buy your vehicle with side curtain airbags. Period.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    I’m not disputing any of those conclusions, which are about as valid as mine. I’m disputing the conclusion of “Some small pickups got poor side-impact ratings? I’d better buy a LARGE pickup!” :)

    I am baffled as to the Institute’s decisions regarding the Colorado. In the past, if a vehicle had optional side airbags, they’ve tested models with AND without. (Look at the test for the Yaris – they crashed two of them. Predictably, the dummy who saved $500 died horribly, while the dummy with the airbags registered no trauma.) In light of the fact that side airbags are available, I can’t imagine why they didn’t test both.

    It’s not like it would have cost them a lot to buy another pickup. =p

  • avatar

    I’m not disputing any of those conclusions, which are about as valid as mine. I’m disputing the conclusion of “Some small pickups got poor side-impact ratings? I’d better buy a LARGE pickup!” :)

    I understand that. It’s cool.

    I am baffled as to the Institute’s decisions regarding the Colorado. In the past, if a vehicle had optional side airbags, they’ve tested models with AND without. (Look at the test for the Yaris – they crashed two of them. Predictably, the dummy who saved $500 died horribly, while the dummy with the airbags registered no trauma.) In light of the fact that side airbags are available, I can’t imagine why they didn’t test both.

    I’m confused a little by it too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite clear that the Colorado isn’t as safe as the others. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons why they should have tested it with side-curtains too. First and foremost, to demonstrate that it could be made safe(r) and get decent safety ratings. Secondly, because the Isuzu i-Series came only with standard side-curtain airbags, so these results can’t be judged to compare the Isuzu with, say, the Tacoma.

    But it wasn’t just the Chevy that should have been tested with side airbags as well as without. The Nissan and Dodge should have been tested in both configurations too.

    I expect the IIHS to test these trucks again with side curtain airbags–sooner than later.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The Dakota, Frontier and Colorado were all redesigned for the 2005 model year while this generation Tacoma came out one year earlier in 2004. The current Ranger goes all the way back to 1998. As such, it isn’t surprising that Ranger isn’t up to best-in-class … but there is no excuse for the first three.

    Perhaps Toyota achieves this improvement simply by making side air bags standard. Sounds good to me. IMO all vehicles should come with a full compliment of air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control.

  • avatar
    RayH

    I have yet to see a Mitsubishi Dakota in the wild… how long have those been out now? I see older Mitsu trucks from time to time.
    I’d personally not want the side airbags no matter test result. I’ll take special care to avoid t-bones, just like when driving a car with side airbags.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    These things are all over the road. Anyone have the Real World crash test data for the Ranger? How does it stand up to the IIHS ratings? It’s not like there’s not enough data, right?

    I hate people pushing stats to further their agendas.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I wouldn’t expect the lab tests and the “Real World” data to match precisely. Lab test remove the variables that are present in the real world, which from a scientific basis, is required in order to accurately compare performance of one vehicle to another. Thats why both sources of data should be considered when you do your research. Driver behavior is a major factor in how a class of vehicle performs. Insurance loss data is a good source of how likely a given vehicle is to be involved in a crash and typical cost of repair, injury rates, etc, provided you operate the vehicle in the same manner as the group as a whole. Drive a Vette like your typical Volvo 240 owner and you are not likely to be collecting that tree in your driver door at 60 mph, so the real world death rate for this Vette driver is not going to have much, uh, impact. Statistics can be presented in almost any way you want in order to bolster your case.

  • avatar
    shaker

    There are A LOT of Colorados out there with no side airbags, and it’s quite possible to purchase a new one without them, so the test is valid.

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