The American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its side-impact crash tests to better simulate conditions in the real world. A number of mid-sized cars were tested, and some of them failed. In the coming months, automakers should improve their vehicles if they want to receive a top IIHS score based on these new requirements.
It’s pretty easy to understand what the IIHS has done. Crossovers are now more popular than regular cars and don’t even get us started on pickup trucks. Crossovers and SUVs are heavier and taller. This has a negative impact if you get T-boned because most of the structural reinforcements on your car are at the bottom, in the sill.
It’s not to say that the doors and designed to withstand side impacts, but just check out what happened to most mid-sized sedans after the new IIHS tests were introduced. Only the Subaru Outback received a great score, and we all know that’s a high-riding crossover pretending to be a wagon.
The new side-impact test uses a mobile (on wheels) barrier that now weighs 4,200 pounds. That’s much heavier compared to the 3,300 pounds of the old test, but it’s honestly not that much, in line with a loaded Honda Pilot or a Toyota RAV4 Prime. Just pray you don’t get T-boned by a Hummer EV, because that’s over 9,000 pounds.
The speed of the barrier has also been increased, from 31 mph to 37 mph. Together, these two measures have increased the impact forces by 82 percent. The IIHS made the changes after real-world data showed much higher collision forces and more severe damage than was used in laboratory tests. The independent safety body says the new 4,200-pound barrier now replicates a real collision with an average SUV.
“With vehicles that sit lower to the ground, the striking barrier hits higher on the door panel,” says 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 IIHS subjected seven popular mid-size models to this test and only the Subaru Outback got a good rating. The Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta (compact) received “Acceptable” scores because the IIHS noticed more cabin intrusion, but each of them got good use out of their side curtain airbags which protected the heads of crash dummies.
The Honda Accord sedan only got a “Marginal” rating, with the IIHS seeing a higher risk of pelvis and head injury plus some more cabin intrusion. Honda is working on an all-new Accord right now, so they’re not going to fix this for just the current model year, but they would otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Chevy Malibu all had “Poor” ratings. All of them had high cabin intrusion and risk of injury. The IIHS’s dummies were sized after women, and the heads of passengers or drivers would slip below the airbag, hitting the window. Worst of all, on one of the cars, the barrier ripped right through the B-pillar.