IIHS Crash Test Results


IIHS added the small overlap test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year.

It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or

an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle'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.

Most vehicles today are designed to do well in the government's full-width front crash

test and in the Institute's moderate overlap front test, but that is no guarantee of good

performance in a small overlap crash. In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings

for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the

frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. In many

vehicles the impact at a 25 percent overlap misses the primary structures designed to

manage crash energy. That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the

occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during

this type of collision, and that can move the driver's head outboard, away from the

protection of the frontal airbag.

Those difficulties were apparent in the small SUV group. Two-thirds of the vehicles had

poor ratings for structure, and about half of them were poor or marginal for restraints

and kinematics, meaning the dummy's movements weren't well-controlled to prevent contact

with hard surfaces.

In one example of poor structure, the front pillar of the Nissan Rogue's door frame was

pushed far inside the occupant compartment and after the crash was almost touching the

driver seat. The Jeep Patriot was among the worst for restraints and kinematics. The

dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag as the steering wheel moved 8 inches up and

nearly 6 inches to the right. The side curtain airbag didn't deploy, and the safety belt

allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward.

In contrast, the Forester had good ratings for structure, restraints and kinematics, and

all four injury measures on the dummy. The airbags worked as intended, and the space

around the dummy was well-maintained. The Outlander Sport was acceptable for structure and

restraints and kinematics and also had good injury measures.

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