New Round of IIHS Small Offset Tests a Mixed Bag

by J.Emerson

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released the results of its latest round of small offset crash tests. This latest group of twelve cars posted a wide range of scores, highlighting the challenging nature of the Institute’s newest test. Only one car earned a “Good” rating from the Institute for this test, with several receiving the lowest score of “Poor.”

The complete results of the test are available here in convenient table format. Highlights include the Mini Cooper Countryman, which earned the only “Good” rating out of all the vehicles tested and retained its “Top Safety Pick” designation. Five vehicles earned acceptable ratings, including the Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max. Four vehicles earned a score of “Poor:” the Nissan Juke, Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500L, and Mazda 5. The Mazda 5’s test in particular is rather ghastly: the front passenger space experiences severe deformation, the driver’s door unlatches, and most worryingly, the driver’s curtain airbag completely fails to deploy. This performance, combined with a “Marginal” rating in the Institute’s side-impact test (making it the only 2014 model car to earn less than an “Acceptable” score), is a major black mark against the little MPV. America’s best-selling Serbian import was little better, exhibiting a great degree of passenger compartment deformation when crashed as seen in the photo above. Although it earned a “Poor” rating, IIHS pointed out that the Nissan Leaf experienced no battery discharge or other leakage when subjected to this fairly severe test; neither did the Chevrolet Volt. Though it earned an “Acceptable” rating in this test and not the highest score of “Good,” the Volt retains its “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation by virtue of its available front crash avoidance system.

The small overlap test, introduced in 2012, is an updated version of the classic “overlap” tests conducted by the Institute for many years. The old overlap test collided half of the front surface area of a car traveling 40 miles an hour with a solid barrier; the new test only allows a quarter of the car’s front area to be matched against the barrier. In other words, less of the car’s structure is made to take more of the force. The result is a greater chance of vehicle deformation, which puts occupants at greater risk of injury. The IIHS justified the new test on the grounds that such small offset crashes are responsible for a disproportionate amount of deaths and injuries in front-end collisions.


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  • Carve Carve on Aug 04, 2014

    I stumbeled on a great website a few years ago called informedforlife. It ATTEMPTS to take the raw data (acceleration forces on crash test dummies rather than arbitrary claims like "good") and factors them in with the danger and frequency of certain types of crashes, and then adds in a factor for mass (mass is your friend in a multi-vehicle accident) and tries to give one score. The data is often a mixed bag though and when data is unavailable they use a place holder for the average vehicle in that class. It's still pretty useful though for identifying cars that are particularly safe or unsafe.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Aug 12, 2014

    "The Mazda 5’s test in particular is rather ghastly: the front passenger space experiences severe deformation, the driver’s door unlatches, and most worryingly, the driver’s curtain airbag completely fails to deploy." I'd be far more worried about passenger compartment deformation than airbag performance. Especially so for an airbag that's designed primarily for protection from impacts that are perpendicular to the applicable impact.

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