Only 1 mid-size car gets top score in new side-impact crash test

The 2022 Subaru Outback undergoes side-impact crash testing at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Laboratory.  We see that the test sled crashed into the side of the Outback, which earned a score of One of two crash testing organizations in America conducted side-impact crash testing on a slate of mid-size cars, and only one earned a score of “good.” Some important background information makes hearing that news a little less scary. but only a little.

America’s two crash testing agencies

The two organizations conduct crash tests on nearly every car sold in the United States.

One is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the federal government. Automakers had to provide cars to NHTSA for testing before automakers could legally sell them in the US, but NHTSA was not responsible for this round of testing.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is the second car safety lab in the US. It is arguably the more intense of the two.

A group of insurance companies fund IIHS. Your insurance company has a financial interest in making car accidents rare and reducing deaths and injuries that occur when accidents occur. So a consortium of car insurance companies provides funding for their own separate safety lab.

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When NHTSA wants to adjust one of its tests, it must go through a lengthy public comment period that usually involves negotiating with automakers. It is a long, bureaucratic process. So changes to NHTSA testing are relatively rare.

When IIHS wants to adjust one of its tests, it can act more quickly. So it routinely makes its tests difficult.

Crash tests that account for the increasing size of SUVs

IIHS is operated by a consortium of America’s largest car insurance companies. they have a very of data on car accidents, and they have recently concluded that their side-effect crash tests need to be changed.

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In older crash tests, IIHS crashed a 3,300-pound sled, the size of the front end of a typical midsize pickup or SUV in the 1980s, at 31 mph in the driver’s side of each vehicle. From. It rated cars as good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on how well they protected two dummies representing average women – one in the driver’s seat and one in the straight behind the driver’s seat. .

But trucks and SUVs have been around since the 1980s. SUVs now sell a mix of cars and trucks. Increasingly, if you collide while crossing an intersection, you’re likely to be hit by something both heavier and taller than an old crash test sled.

Americans are also driving faster than before. Speeding tickets, risky driving and fatal accidents have increased in recent years.

So IIHS adjusted its tests. It now uses a 4,180-pound weight to accelerate at 37 mph, roughly the size of the front of a typical mid-sized truck or SUV today. “As a result of these changes, the new test contains 82 percent more energy than the original test,” IIHS says.

The agency released its first round of crash tests with the new standard last October. The results were discouraging. Of the 20 small SUVs subjected to new testing, just one – the 2021 Mazda CX-5 – earned a “good” rating.

latest round of test

This time, seven medium-sized cars made up the test group. All seven earned a rating of “good” in the institute’s chronic side effects trial.

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Since they are bigger and heavier than the small SUVs of the past, some expected them to perform slightly better.

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He didn’t. they performed Worse, IIHS states, “Overall, this initial group of mid-size cars did not perform as well as the first batch of small and mid-size SUVs previously evaluated. One reason may be their low ride height. ,

Their low height means that the crash test takes a lot of hits on the door. “This potentially puts sedans and wagons at a disadvantage in this assessment,” says IIHS president David Harkey. But it “reflects what happens in a real-world accident when these vehicles collide with a high-riding pickup or SUV,” he notes.

The only vehicle to receive a “good” rating in the new test is the 2022 Subaru Outback, a high-riding wagon.

The 2022 Chevy Malibu undergoes side-impact crash testing at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Laboratory.  We see the test sled crash in favor of Malibu, who earned the score



2022 Subaru Outback


2022 Hyundai Sonata

2022 Volkswagen Jetta


2022 Honda Accord


2022 Toyota Camry

2022 Nissan Altima

2022 Chevrolet Malibu

Outback is out of place in this group

The Outback may have outperformed the others for one simple reason – it’s out of place in a group of sedans.

The Outback has its origins in a midsize sedan. It was once a variant of the Subaru Legacy. But these days it looks more like an SUV than a sedan. The Outback has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches altogether—more than the Camry’s 5.7 or the Malibu’s 4.6.

The Outback’s very high position means the test sled hits the door down on it, so the test dummy’s heads are in a better position for the side-impact airbags to do their job.

Consider this screenshot from the Institute’s video of Outback testing:

Screenshot from the Highway Safety Insurance Institute's 2022 Subaru Outback side-impact crash test, showing the sled hit under the car's side windows

Now, consider this screenshot from the Institute’s video of testing Malibu:

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A screenshot from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 2022 Chevy Malibu side-impact crash test, showing the sled height on the car's side windows

Our decision? These are not the same tests. The Outback’s performance could be different simply because it seems out of place in a test group full of sedans. His vote no palanquin Scored more than marginal marks.

Don’t panic – everyone gets better when the test is tough

The results are disappointing, and we’ll consider them when making a car purchase. But there is a silver lining to the cars bombing the test.

IIHS has driven change in the past by strengthening its standards. Just last year, several automakers made upgraded headlights standard equipment on new cars rather than an additional cost option – the IIHS announced that cars could not win their highest safety award if they charge extra for safe lighting.

Those awards are an important tool in making cars safer for all. Automakers crave the Institute’s Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards and tout them in advertisements. In a competitive car market, automakers compete to manufacture cars that are safe enough to earn those badges.

The tough test will not count towards the awards yet. IIHS will not take into account the new side-effect scores for the awards until next year to give automakers time to improve.

that’s the point. Now they have to be repaired. So the scary headline above is a good thing in the long run. This will likely drive security innovations.

“However, from 2023, a lower level Top Safety Pick award will require a Good or Acceptable rating, and a higher level Top Safety Pick + will require a Good rating,” the IIHS says.