New crash test means getting IIHS "top safety pick" a lot harder

Aug 14, 2012

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will probably be handing out a lot fewer of its coveted "Top Safety Pick" awards in 2014.

Not because cars will suddenly be less safe - but because of a new test the agency is requiring.  

The Insurance Institute will soon add a test for a so-called "small overlap" crash.

That's where the corner of a car strikes another car or object, shearing off the side, "thereby missing much of the energy absorbing structure that's been built into the front ends of vehicles for frontal crashes," says the Institute's President Adrian Lund.

Only two of ten midsize luxury cars tested got the top rating of "good" on the new test. Non-luxury cars could fare even worse.

Lund says most cars will have to be redesigned to pass the test, and they could get heavier, which generally reduces fuel economy.

"In the long run I don't expect this test to add greatly to the weight of the vehicle," says Lund, "But it will add some."

Lund says the tradeoff is worth it. He says of the 10,000 deaths each year in frontal crashes, about a quarter involve these small overlap accidents.  

The Acura TL and Volvo S60-G received the highest rating of "good" on the new small overlap crash tests.

The Infiniti G-A received the next highest rating, "acceptable."

The Acura TSX, BMW 3-series, Lincoln MKZ, and the Volkswagon CC received "marginal" ratings, and the Mercedes C-class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A-4, and Lexus ES 350 all received "poor" ratings for the test.