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xcel 12-20-2012 01:00 AM

Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Lexus IS was the first to take the hit. Camry and Prius v fail in almost the same way this time around.

Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Dec. 20, 2012

When we first heard about the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap test this past summer, it woke me up to an entirely new crash test result. Even more interesting is the fact that as many as one-third of all accidents manifest themselves in this fashion.

Earlier today, the IIHS released a lengthy report showing that moderately priced midsize cars outperformed most of their luxury counterparts when the new Small Overlap frontal crash test was included with a number of new 2013 models. Of the 18 midsize family cars evaluated in the small overlap test to date, only two earn the top rating of good, 11 earn acceptable, three earn marginal, and two are poor.

Just 3 of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated in the inaugural round of small overlap tests earned good or acceptable ratings. Midsize moderately priced cars are the second group to be tested. The best performers in this group are the Honda Accord 4-door and Suzuki Kizashi. Both earn a good rating.

In our first look at the New IIHS Frontal Crash Tests Will Change the “Top Safety Pick” Landscape write-up, we knew it was going to create havoc among the manufacturers. In that first round, it was basically the Volvo S60 and Acura TL that made the grade while the Lexus IS, VW CC and Lincoln MKZ fell far short.

This time around, a few more safety stalwarts had their @$$’s handed to them.

Most automakers design their vehicles for good performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal test and the federal government's National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) full-width frontal test, but many haven't addressed the problem of small overlap crashes. In a 2009 IIHS study, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a car's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

Adrian Lund, IIHS President:

"The difference is stunning. Thirteen of these midsize cars offer better crash protection than all but three of their luxury counterparts, and at a price that's easier on the wallet."
A new safety award

Adrian Lund, IIHS President:

"To recognize vehicles with superior performance across all of our crash tests, the institute has created a new award. Top Safety Pick +. The + recognizes those vehicles with good or acceptable ratings in our new more stringent small overlap crash test."
For 2013 models to earn superior crash protection awards, the IIHS created the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, with the + indicating good or acceptable performance in the new small overlap test. TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least 4 of 5 evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact and rollover, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

To date, just 13 models qualify for the accolade. Winners include: the 2013 Dodge Avenger and its twin, the 2013 Chrysler 200 4-door; 2013 Ford Fusion; 2013 Honda Accord 2-door; 2013 Honda Accord 4-door; 2013 Kia Optima; 2013 Nissan Altima 4-door; 2013 Subaru Legacy and its twin, the 2013 Subaru Outback; 2013 Suzuki Kizashi and 2013 Volkswagen Passat. Two previously tested luxury models, the 2013 Acura TL and 2013 Volvo S60, also earn TOP SAFETY PICK+. IIHS will announce additional winners as it continues to test models. Results for small SUVs are expected in the spring.

Where the IIHS fell short in recent years was the fact that 117 additional vehicles earned TOP SAFETY PICK for 2013. Instead of listing the Top Safety Pick award criteria, it is safe to say that a majority of automobiles tested earned this award diluting its usefulness.

The good news is that the IIHS gave manufacturers advance notice of its Top Safety Pick+ criteria changes and many have followed through with excellent results.

According to the release, Honda engineered both versions of the Accord to do well in the small overlap test. Ford and Nissan made running structural changes to 2013 models already in production. Subaru and Volkswagen changed airbag control modules on the production line so side curtain airbags would deploy for improved head protection.

Toyota Gets “Smashed”

Near the top of the family sedan market, some of the bestsellers that have earned the previous Top Safety Pick have also now earned the even more stringent Top Safety Pick+ award. This includes the 2013 Accord, Altima, Fusion and Passat.

Unfortunately Toyota which in the recent past has stood at the pinnacle of safety technology (STAR System) and crash test performance is not making the grade.

The top selling Camry and the Prius v hybrid wagon both earned unusually poor ratings for the small overlap protection and are the worst performers of the midsize group. The Camry was redesigned for 2012, and the Prius v was an all-new model for 2012.

The Camry and Prius v illustrate what can go wrong in a small overlap crash, despite good ratings in IIHS tests that qualify the cars for a “TOP SAFETY PICK”.

Safety cages are built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation, and Toyotas are no exception. Crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment. The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50 percent of the front end. When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect people inside.

According to the IIHS, 25 percent overlap frontal impacts miss the primary structures designed to manage crash energy and results in crash forces going directly into the wheel, suspension system and firewall. Such crashes often have high levels of occupant compartment intrusion. It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries. Since the impact occurs toward the car's outer edge, the vehicle has a tendency to rotate during the collision, resulting in the driver's head moving outboard, away from the frontal airbag. Real crashes of this type result in head injuries from contact with outboard structures or intruding objects such as trees or poles.

With the Camry, the force of the impact shoved the front wheel back into the footwell, bending the A-pillar and pushing the parking brake pedal and the left outer edge of the instrument panel rearward into the driver's survival space. Likewise, there was significant intrusion in the Prius v, along with high forces on the dummy's legs and feet. The Prius v is the only car in the midsize test group to earn a poor rating for hip and thigh protection.

The Camry's driver airbag and side curtain airbag deployed, but the steering wheel moved so far to the right that the dummy's head made only minimal contact with the front airbag. The side curtain airbag didn't extend far enough forward to help prevent the dummy's head from hitting the instrument panel. In the Prius v, the side curtain airbag deployed too late in the crash to offer protection.

Adrian Lund, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

Both Toyota's in this group earned poor ratings. The Camry and the Prius v. Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors.
2013 Toyota Prius v - Small Offset Frontal Impact Crash test Aftermath

Survival space for the driver in the Toyota Prius v was seriously compromised. Like the Camry and IS before it, the A-Pillar collapsed and side curtain airbag deployed too late to offer protection. This allowed the drivers head to slide between the side and front airbags only to hit the front dash. And thus the Prius v earned an IIHS poor rating.

The toughest Crash Test In Existence

The small overlap frontal test represents the most severe but high percentage type of accident. When cars strike the IIHS small offset crash test barrier they tend to move sideways away from it, and the interior structures including the driver door, side window and windshield pillar move in the same direction. The dummy, however, continues forward into the path of the sideways-moving interior structures. At the same time, the steering column and driver airbag move inboard in many vehicles as the front end and occupant compartment deform. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off it, its head and chest are unprotected which is exactly what occurred with the IS, Camry and Prius v.

Front airbags are calibrated to always deploy in these crashes. Side and side curtain airbags do not always deploy because they are designed mainly for direct side impacts. When they do deploy, they don't always do so early enough or extend far enough forward to adequately protect people. The result is an airbag gray zone with gaps between what front airbags cover and what side airbags do — if they deploy at all.

Without airbag protection, people in real-world small overlap frontal crashes can sustain head injuries from direct contact with the windshield pillar, dashboard or window sill or by hitting trees, poles or other objects. Chest injuries happen when people contact the steering wheel, door or other intruding structures.

As can be seen in the accompanying video, the Accord sedan shows how safety belts and airbags work together to provide superior protection from this type of accident. The dummy stayed engaged with the Accord's front airbag, and the steering wheel remained relatively stable because there was only moderate intrusion into the occupant compartment. That meant that the driver airbag was in the right position to cushion the dummy's head and chest. The side curtain airbag extended far enough forward to prevent the dummy's head from hitting interior components.

And right out of the IIHS release, every midsize car evaluated earns good ratings for head, neck and chest injury risk based on measurements from dummy sensors. Similar real-world crashes, however, often result in serious upper body injuries. One possible reason for the differing results is that real people move more during a crash and are prone to be out of position at the start, compared with relatively stiff and precisely positioned crash test dummies. Not all drivers are the same size as the dummy or seated the same way. A close call for the dummy could mean an actual injury for a person. Another reason is that the frontal crash dummy IIHS uses in the small overlap test isn't good at measuring risks from lateral forces. Side crash dummies do a better job of this but can't record much of the frontal action in these tests.

Other disastrous results

When the 2013 VW Jetta was tested in the small overlap crash test, engineers at the Vehicle Research Center witnessed a first for IIHS crash testing when the driver airbag module detached from the steering column. It happened relatively late in the crash and didn't affect the dummy's movement. Still, airbags should stay in place in crashes, so engineers had to lower the restraints and kinematics score for the marginally rated Jetta. IIHS isn't aware of a problem with Volkswagen's airbag module in real-world crashes, and Volkswagen is said to be investigating this issue further.

Adrian Lund, IIHS President:

“Consumers shopping for state of the art crash protection in their new vehicles should look for Top Safety Pick + award.”
2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Award Winners To Date

Midsize moderately priced carsMidsize luxury/near luxury cars
Chrysler 200 4-doorAcura TL
Dodge AvengerVolvo S60
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord 2-door
Honda Accord 4-door
Kia Optima
Nissan Altima 4-door
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Suzuki Kizashi
Volkswagen Passat 

Yet another eye opening release. To put it bluntly, you can bet there will be some serious Over Time being conducted in the Toyota crash test facility in Japan to overcome the multi Lexus/Toyota sedan and wagon failures. Namely the A-Pillar collapses, extending the side and side curtain airbags reach and timing and redirect crash test forces further down alongside the passenger safety cell and structure to reduce footwell intrusion.

The release as issued: Family cars outperform luxury models in rigorous new crash test; strong performance earns 13 midsize cars highest safety accolade

priusCpilot 12-20-2012 02:28 AM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Wow good post! Now im going to go head on to have a better chance then being clipped! No Prius C test yet on this type of crash.

The German cars did real bad has did many others but that Volvo kicked but! I have new respect for the Volvo brand now.

ALS 12-20-2012 10:04 AM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
The only reason I bought my Prius was after I saw the frontal and side crash tests on the third generation. With such a short hood I was worried that the crush zone was too short but with the engine and trans-axle absorbing the energy the car came out of the test looking pretty good. With out the engine in the picture it looks like the body structure can't with stand the forces involved in the crash. One note in reading the article was I didn't understand some of the conclusions with injuries with the offset crash.


The side curtain airbag didn't extend far enough forward to help prevent the dummy's head from hitting the instrument panel.
If you were wearing a three point seat belt how does your head and chest impact the steering wheel and windshield? Yes I saw the crash picture and still there are serious issues with safety design. And you wonder why I keep my 960 as my highway car? The car is built like a tank.

I got hit head on in a 86 Volvo 740 sedan by a Ford F150 and the firewall and dash did move a few inches but with the seat belt on I never got touched. BTW Volvo didn't offer airbags in the car at that time. I was fine but the paramedics were insistent that I go to the hospital. I never saw so many Dr.s take an interest in me and all asked me what I was driving. I guess the Paramedics must have been telling them about the severity of the accident. One Dr. said to another when they were walking out of the exam room I going to look at a Volvo after I get off today.

xcel 12-20-2012 02:48 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Hi All:

Been on the phone with my mom after she saw my post this morning given she drives a v.

Here are a few quick look ups in case anyone wanted to see others...

Here are quite a few “highlights” and notice how many say “built after November or December 2012”. Those vehicles built before it (even 2013’s) would have more than likely performed poorly.

Click on the “Watch crash test footage for this vehicle on YouTube” for each vehicle as linked.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu:

2013 Volkswagen Passat:

2013 Nissan Altima:

2013 Kia Optima:

2013 Ford Fusion:

2013 Honda Accord:


xcel 12-20-2012 03:50 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Hi All:

Toyota's first public statement on the results...

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests which go beyond federal requirements. With this new test, the Institute has raised the bar again and we will respond to the challenge. We are evaluating the new test protocols and can say that there will not be one single solution to achieve greater crash performance in this area.

Toyota has 19 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models named 2012 IIHS “Top Safety Picks”, including the Camry and Prius v, more than any other automaker. We’re also proud of the Camry’s 5 Star Safety rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)*.

*The Prius v has not been rated by the NHTSA at this point.
Al, the 97 Volvo would get creamed on this test as it was a 4 star rated vehicle for moderate overlap frontal impact on the old (pre 2011 NHTSA crash test). Your Prius is a far safer car from that measure alone.


ALS 12-20-2012 04:48 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Hi Wayne,

I know but I still feel pretty safe in the Volvo. I use to look at my 1965 GTO as a death trap in an accident. There was only a steel frame and heavy bumper to protect you. I was lucky, the original owner opted at least for the seat belt option. :)

vangonebuy 12-20-2012 08:10 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
We lost a famous Property Developer back in August out on the end of Long Island.
Similar angled accident, I was told from someone who knew the driver.
Driver was a big fan of his Prius and Prius V.

Very Sad.
And reason to be concerned.

A link:

xcel 12-20-2012 08:21 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Hi Vangonebuy:

Even more reason to consider a new vehicle instead of an older one. Anything pre 09 has no FMVSS 50 mph rear crash rail. All vehicles from every manufacturer prior to 2011 would be a death trap in this small offset collision scenario at speed. The Prius v and Camry were 5-star rated on the new NHTSA due to HSS and UHSS design yet failed in the new small overlap test. Older vehicles have no such advanced design attributes to dissipate this kind of energy whether it is the moderate overlap in the IIHS or 2011 NHTSA or the IIHS' new 2013 small overlap.

This new test is one scary monster and is yet another reason to pass on anything used if you can afford not to.

I own a number of 03 - 05 vehicles with some of the best IIHS and NHTSA crash test ratings from the era. I would not stand a chance in any of them if hit like this new IIHS test reveals.


worthywads 12-20-2012 09:17 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests

Originally Posted by ALS (Post 365248)
Hi Wayne,

I know but I still feel pretty safe in the Volvo. I use to look at my 1965 GTO as a death trap in an accident. There was only a steel frame and heavy bumper to protect you. I was lucky, the original owner opted at least for the seat belt option. :)

Back then drum brakes were the norm, disc only starting to be an option for the GTO in 1967.

My 70 Challenger could not take 2 panic stops without near total brake fade. I put an aftermarket front disc conversion in years ago and it is amazing the difference.

From wiki.

"Major criticisms of the [1965] GTO continued to center on its slow steering (ratio of 17.5:1, four turns lock-to-lock) and mediocre brakes. Car Life was satisfied with the metallic brakes on its GTO, but Motor Trend and Road Test found the four-wheel drum brakes with organic linings to be alarmingly inadequate in high-speed driving."

Suicide Machines per Bruce Springsteens

MaxxMPG 12-20-2012 09:57 PM

Re: Toyota Takes another Hit on IIHS’ New Small Overlap Crash Tests
Going further back, before the GTO: A quote from Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" - Chapter 3 (The Second Collision: When Man Meets Car)...

On January 19, 1962, Milford Horn, a Denver engineer, driving at a slow speed, skidded in his Corvair on an icy road into the side of a slowly moving locomotive. Dr. Campbell investigated the accident and gave the following report to the Seventh Stapp Car Crash Conference in November 1963: "Horn had died instantly at the scene with a completely broken neck. The state patrolman told me to go and see the car and I would then understand why. The man's character [Horn's] was revealed on my inspection of the car. There were four seat belts; his widow told me later that every belt had to be fastened before he would start the engine. There were four electric flashing Signal lights, to be placed on the road in case a tire change became necessary.

"His car, a 1961 Corvair, was extensively damaged at the left front comer. The hub of the steering wheel was displaced, by actual measurement against another car of the same make, two feet upward and backward. It broke his neck. He had no other injuries of consequence.

"The man who towed his car in told me that in every car of this make which he brought in with left front deformation, the steering shaft is driven backward, often more than a foot."
I remember when the IIHS first started its frontal offset testing in 1995, they said that with airbags protecting the head and chest, they were finding that people were surviving these higher speed crashes, but were suffering disfiguring lower body and limb injuries.

Now that IIHS has essentially declared victory in those original offset tests, they are now looking at other crash scenarios - such as these new narrow overlap tests - to take the next step in improving crashworthiness. Anyone familar with the construction of the modern automobile will understand that designing a front end to ace this test is a major engineering challenge.

One anomaly I noted was that the Kia Optima earned the "+" while its structural twin - the Hyundai Sonata - did not. One difference to note is that one car fired the side curtain and the other did not. And the only other difference I could see was the movement of the left front wheel/tire during the crash. I have to wonder how the "sport" versions with larger diameter wheels would affect results since so many cars are suffering lower scores as the wheel is driven into the door jamb and floorpan. These two platform twins are an interesting study in how the test results can be affected by much more than the simple unibody structure.

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