A new ‘small overlap frontal crash test’, introduced by the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, has tarnished the safety credentials of many small executive cars. Designed to replicate an impact with a tree or pylon, the test subjects the car to a 40mph impact with a 1.5-metre tall rigid barrier.
So far, the only car available in the UK that has earned a ‘good’ rating is the Volvo S60. The Infiniti G-Series achieved an ‘acceptable’ score whilst popular models such as the BMW 3-Series, Lexus IS, Audi A4, Volkswagen CC and Mercedes C-Class scored only a ‘marginal’ or ‘poor’ result.
The test has been introduced as more than 10,000 deaths occur in the US in frontal crashes every year, despite the vast majority of new cars passing the regular frontal tests. The most recent study states that small overlap crashes account for just under a quarter of vehicle crashes in the US. President of the Institute for Highway Safety Adrian Lund has said the test is based on many years of analysis, and could be “the next step in improving frontal crash protection”.
The likely reason for so many poor performances in this test is that it avoids crumple zones, impacting the car’s outer edges. Many cars tested suffered extreme footwell intrusion as the suspension, wheel and firewall were all pushed inwards.
The NHTSA hopes this new set of ratings will ensure manufacturers no longer simply focus on performing well in their standard full-width frontal and moderate overlap tests.