New American side-impact crash tests have highlighted the grave danger posed to passenger cars by full-size SUVs and other tall, heavy vehicles. Results from a new crash test regime created by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) show the devastating consequences of being hit side-on at 31mph by a typical 1500kg SUV. However, the tests established that many lives could be saved if car makers fitted side and head airbags as standard.
Saab’s 9-3 saloon, Honda’s Acura TL (similar to an Accord), the Lexus ES330 (an upmarket Toyota Camry) and the 2005 Mitsubishi Galant were all awarded ‘good’ ratings. The new Volvo S40 (above) received only an ‘acceptable’ rating, the same as the older Saab 9-5. Jaguar’s X-type slumped to a ‘marginal’ rating. The Institute’s tests use a deformable barrier shaped to mimic the front of a traditional US-style truck-based SUV. The dummies in each of the crash-test vehicles are representative of the shortest type of driver and passenger. This means the top of impact barrier would be level with the dummy’s heads – putting the maximum demand on the car’s side-impact protection.
European side-impact ‘pole’ tests better reflect a typical European worst-case side-impact – hitting a tree or lamp post – although the European SUV population is growing.