Nissan Maxima
IIHS via AP file
This photo released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows the damage to a 2005 Nissan Massima after a crash to determine how well the vehicle would protect occupants in side impact collisions.
updated 6/6/2005 8:53:29 AM ET 2005-06-06T12:53:29

The 2005 Nissan Maxima and Suzuki Verona received marginal ratings in crash tests released Sunday by the insurance industry. Researchers questioned how well the vehicles would protect occupants in side impact collisions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Chevrolet Malibu and Audi A4 its top score, good, in side impact tests of five 2005 model midsize sedans. The Volvo S60 rated the second-highest score of acceptable.

The tests reflect what happens when vehicles are hit in the side by a pickup or sport utility vehicle. The latest results “show that more and more manufacturers are improving their vehicles to better protect occupants in side impact crashes,” said Adrian Lund, the institute’s chief operating officer.

The institute gave the Maxima and Verona its second-lowest rating. Their side structures were unlikely to provide effective side protection, even with air bags that guard the head, the institute said.

In a side impact crash, the Maxima’s driver might sustain rib fractures, internal injuries and a left leg fracture, the institute said. The Maxima starts at $27,500.

The driver of the Verona might face a fractured pelvis and a rear passenger might have rib fractures, internal organ injuries and a fractured left leg. The Verona starts at about $17,500.

Suzuki commended on side bags
Lund said Suzuki should be commended for making standard side air bags in the new model. The 2004 model received a poor rating from the institute.

American Suzuki Motor Corp. said in a statement that the Verona is safe and reliable and complies with all federal crash test standards.

Nissan North America Inc. said in a statement that the Maxima was designed “to provide a high level of occupant safety in a wide range of real-world crashes, including side impact collisions.”

Malibu improves, Volvo has ‘work to do’
In the Volvo model, the institute found that standard curtain air bags in the vehicle offered good head protection but a fractured pelvis would probably result in a side impact crash. Lund said Volvo “still has some work to do” on the S60.

Volvo Cars of North America said in a statement it was pleased with the acceptable score. The company noted the high safety ratings of the S60 in worldwide evaluations.

Lund said the Malibu made strides compared with the 2004 model, which did not provide good protection to the chest and abdomen. To address the concern, General Motors Corp. added torso air bags for front-seat occupants.

Lund said it shows “you don’t have to buy an expensive luxury car to get good protection for your family in a serious crash.”

Other cars, other ratings
In the institute’s side impact test, vehicles are struck with a 3,300-pound barrier moving at 31 mph.

The institute said nine midsize sedans have good ratings in side impact crashes. In addition to the Malibu and A4, they are the Saab 9-3, Acura TL, Lexus ES300/330, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Mitsubishi Galant.

Twenty-five of 29 vehicles rated by the institute received top marks in frontal crash tests. Four others got the second-highest rating.

Most of the vehicles were tested earlier by the institute, which conducts the tests as the vehicles are redesigned.

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