May 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM ET
Five popular crossover-utility vehicles failed the new overlap crash test designed to simulate an impact with a pole or other narrow object -- one of the most common sources of highway fatalities.
Only the 2014 Subaru Forester passed the test, earning a “good” rating from the trade group the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport landed an “acceptable” rating.
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Among the vehicles to fail the test, earning a “poor rating,” were the recently updated Ford Escape, the Jeep Patriot, the Buick Encore, the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson. The Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V were among those compact crossovers to earn a “marginal” rating.
IIHS conducts crash tests on most models available on the U.S. market. Most of the tests are also conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – but the trade group recently added the small overlap crash test in an effort to replicate some of the more common real-world crashes.
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The test is similar to what happens when a thin corner of a vehicle slams into a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver’s side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph.
“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,” noted a report from the trade group. “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.”
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Manufacturers have complained about the difficulty of passing the new test and have started to design products to address the challenges it creates.
That appears to have been a key goal for Subaru, said Joe Nolan, the IIHS vice president overseeing vehicle research: “And they succeeded.”
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"This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes,” Nolan said.
The 2014 Forester and the 2013 Outlander are the only two CUVs among the 13 to earn a “Top Safety Pick+” rating from the IIHS.
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The Institute had less kind words for the Jeep Patriot, dubbing it “the worst for restraints and kinematics.” The test dummy bounced around within the small crossover and the side curtain airbag didn’t even deploy during the test.
Meanwhile, the IIHS noted that “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.”
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