After some mixed results from early models tested in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) new small overlap crash test, the latest batch of vehicles earn top scores.
The Volvo XC60 and two- and four-door versions of the Honda Civic earn Good ratings for small overlap protection. Both the Lincoln MKZ and the redesigned 2014 Mazda6 sedans earned an Acceptable rating in the latest test.
For this test, vehicles careen into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph, replicating the impact with a tree or pole. The simulated crash involves just 25 percent of the width of the vehicle, concentrating the force on essentially the driver-side front corner.
To reward good performers, the IIHS added a "+" to their coveted Top Safety Pick award for those models that earn a Good or Acceptable in this rigorous test. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn Good ratings in at least four out of five of their tests, which include the moderate front overlap crash, side impact, rollover, and evaluations of how well seat and head restraints protect occupants from neck injuries in rear impacts. Plus, the car has to earn no less than an Acceptable in the small front overlap crash test.
The Honda Civic is the first small car to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award. For 2013, the Civic received significant front structural upgrades in the car body and cabin to improve its performance in the small overlap test. (Honda made numerous other notable improvements to the Civic for 2013, addressing several key criticisms.) To improve the XC60 performance, Volvo engineers changed an algorithm to cause the side curtain airbag to deploy in this type of crash.
Previous models that have earned the Top Safety Pick+ designation include: Acura TL, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord coupe, Honda Accord sedan, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Kizashi, and Volvo S60.
The recent tests of all five of these vehicles were made at the request of manufacturers. IIHS is currently working through a schedule to get more vehicles tested in this new protocol. As more vehicles are rated, we'll include those ratings in our online and magazine coverage.