The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a new side-impact test that seems designed to pressure automakers to up their game, in that 19 of the 20 cars IIHS recently tested did not pass with a “good” rating. In fact, the Mazda CX-5 was the only one that did.
Nine vehicles earn acceptable ratings: the Audi Q3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Venza and Volvo XC40.
Eight others — the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade, Kia Sportage and Lincoln Corsair — earn marginal ratings. Two more, the Honda HR-V and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, receive poor ratings.
All but one of the tested vehicles was a 2021 model. Mitsubishi skipped the 2021 model year for the Eclipse Cross, so the 2020 model was tested. With the exception of the Compass and the Tucson, the ratings carry over to 2022 models.
“Obviously, these results aren’t great, but they’re in line with what we expected when we adopted this more stringent test,” says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller, whose research formed the foundation for the new test protocol.
The new test involves a 4,180-pound weight that slams into the side of the cars at 37 mph, whereas the old test had a 3,300-pound weight hitting the cars at 31 mph, a change made in part to match the average weights of midsize SUVs on the road, which is depressing that that is needed at all. IIHS says the new weight also is designed differently, to imitate an SUV or truck, because that is seemingly all anyone is interested in buying these days.
The new test is actually somewhat fascinating:
The new test reveals wide discrepancies in the degree of protection these small SUVs provide for the pelvis and the chest. Only five vehicles earn good or acceptable scores across the board for these injury measures.
A likely explanation is that the new striking barrier bends around the B-pillar between the driver and rear passenger doors. Mueller observed the same tendency by the fronts of SUVs and pickups during vehicle-to-vehicle research tests. As a result of this behavior, depressions are formed in the front and rear doors of the struck vehicle and the occupant space can be compromised even if the B-pillar can withstand the higher-speed impact. To adapt, manufacturers will probably need to strengthen the horizontal door beams to reduce that intrusion and adjust their torso- and pelvis-protecting airbags to provide more coverage and cushioning.
The worst two performing SUVs with the new test are the 2021-2022 Honda HR-V and 2020 and 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, so try not to get hit in the side if you have one of those.