When it passed the wringer of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s updated side-crash test, the Subaru Outback was the only mid-sized car to score a “good” rating. Six more midsizers were tested. The Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta received “acceptable” ratings, the Honda Accord received a “marginal” rating, while the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Chevy Malibu all received “poor” ratings.
The IIHS updated the side test to more accurately reflect a real-life crash into a “raised hood,” essentially a pickup truck or SUV. This means a heavier barrier (the dummy vehicle that crashes into the test car) that now weighs 4,200 pounds — or the average weight of a modern SUV — and travels at 37 mph. Previously, this test involved a 3,300 pound barrier traveling at 31 mph, and interestingly, all of the cars listed above were more likely to get “good” ratings under these old parameters.
According to the organization, the mid-sized cars in this updated test didn’t perform as well as small or mid-sized SUVs, likely due to the fact that they ride lower, putting occupants more directly in the proverbial line of fire. This further confirms what most of us already knew a little bit: regular cars don’t fare so well in collisions with vehicles bigger and bigger than them. A hypothesis that ties in with the fact that the Subaru Outback – a raised all-terrain vehicle that indeed rides slightly higher than the traditional sedans tested – performed best.
“On vehicles that sit lower to the ground, the conspicuous barrier comes higher on the door panel,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That may put sedans and wagons at a disadvantage in this evaluation, but reflects what happens in a real crash when these vehicles are hit by a higher-traveling pickup or SUV.”
This new side crash test was developed after the IIHS found in 2019 that side impacts were still responsible for 23 percent of all passenger deaths. This is despite the fact that 99 percent of all tested vehicles scored “good” on their official test. So no, Camrys and Altimas haven’t magically become less safe this year. Instead, the test itself became much more intense and representative of a collision with an SUV that, given their ubiquity, is a new sedan. should better equipped to protect against.
Do you have a tip or question for the author? You can reach him here: [email protected]