When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results of their Small Overlap Front crash test for Mid-Size SUVs today, we focused mainly on the good news. GM did well, others not so much. The Mazda CX-9, for example, was rated "poor." And it wasn't even the worst one out there.
The Small Overlap Front crash test was introduced by the IIHS in 2012, and the test "is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole," according to the Institute. Vehicles impact a 5-foot rigid barrier at 40 MPH.
It's a pretty tough test.
In the Mazda CX-9's run, you can visibly see the crash test dummy's head virtually instantaneously slide off the airbag that was meant to save it, and instead rush straight for the A-pillar. That A-pillar, coincidentally, was at the same time being brutally deformed into a twisted hunk of metal by the impact, and launched itself towards the dummy's head.
In the report issued by the IIHS explaining its rating, it said (emphasis mine)
A high head acceleration occurred when the dummy's head hit the window frame, indicating that head injuries would be possible in a crash of this severity.
No kidding. We've reached out to Mazda to see if they have a response to the results of the test, and will update you if they respond.
The Honda Pilot was the worst performer in this group. The driver's space was seriously compromised by intruding structure. In the worst instance, the parking brake pedal moved inward 16½ inches. The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved 5½ inches to the right. Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left knee and both lower legs would be possible.
And, once again, here's Honda's response, as told to the New York Times:
Utilizing the same body structure as the 2014 Pilot, the 2013 Honda Pilot was rated an I.I.H.S. Top Safety Pick and, according to I.I.H.S., 2013 Top Safety Pick designees like the Pilot 'continue to offer a high level of protection in four main crash types — moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear.
And this is what that test looked like:
It's not as jarring visually, but the damage is still pretty bad.
Part of the issue here is that as industry safety standards get harder, so too do the tests and testing criteria. But carmakers spend millions upon millions of dollars on safety and crash testing, and hitting a pole isn't exactly uncommon, sadly. Which makes it kind of strange than companies like Honda and Mazda wouldn't prepare for such an event, and surprising that companies that pride themselves on safety as a selling point haven't figured out that this is another possible route to making more money.
Either way, they're probably working on fixing that right now.
UPDATE: Mazda just sent us this official response:
The Mazda CX-9 was designed before the IIHS new stringent, small overlap frontal crash was incorporated into their test regime. The CX-9 received IIHS's top rating of Good in their frontal moderate overlap and side impact tests, and also got an overall 4-star rating in NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests.
H/t to EL_ULY on Oppo!