IIHS warns of poor small-overlap performance for front passengers

IIHS warns of poor small-overlap performance for front passengers

Most recent crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show significant improvements in small-overlap performance, however the organization has warned that the same level of protection may not extend to the front passenger seat.

Asymmetrical reinforcements focused on the driver side appear to have prompted a deeper investigation into automakers’ engineering decisions. The IIHS chose seven small SUVs with ‘good’ driver-side ratings and mirrored the small-overlap test to strike the opposite wheel.

“Only one of the vehicles, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, performed at a level corresponding to a good rating, and the others ran the gamut from poor to acceptable,” the institute said in a statement.

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 and 2014 Nissan Rogue were the only vehicles with frontal structures that appeared asymmetrical. The RAV4 was the worst performer, with 13 more inches of intrusion than on the driver side, while the Rogue’s door hinge pillar was completely torn off. If the passenger small-overlap test was included in the formal ratings system, the RAV4 would have received a ‘poor’ rating and the Rogue ‘marginal.’

“Two vehicles that appeared symmetrical, the 2014 Subaru Forester and the 2015 Mazda CX-5, also had substantially more intrusion in the passenger-side test than in the driver-side test,” the report added.

The 2015 Buick Encore and 2015 Honda CR-V also received ‘acceptable’ provisional ratings for the passenger-side test.

Researchers stopped short of accusing automakers of manipulating the system or violating the spirit of the crash tests, however the IIHS is nonetheless considering passenger-side small-overlap tests as part of its Top Safety Pick criteria.

“It’s not surprising that automakers would focus their initial efforts to improve small overlap protection on the side of the vehicle that we conduct the tests on,” said IIHS chief research officer David Zuby. “In fact, we encouraged them to do that in the short term if it meant they could quickly make driver-side improvements to more vehicles. As time goes by, though, we would hope they ensure similar levels of protection on both sides.”

The IIHS is considering implementing passenger-side small overlap ratings next year, to be included as a requirement for Top Safety Pick status by 2018.

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