Consumer Reports (CR) has removed the Toyota Camry, RAV4, and Prius V from its list of recommended cars because the 2014 versions of these models got “poor” scores in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS’s) small overlap front crash test, writes Jerry Hirsch for the Los Angeles Times. Hirsch notes that the Camry is the best-selling passenger car in the United States, and the RAV4 is one of the most popular compact sport utilities. All three have long been among CR’s top picks, he writes, adding that Audi’s A4 has also lost its recommended status for the same reason.
Hirsch quotes C. Matt Fields, a spokesman for the magazine, who said those four models have been tested repeatedly, but do not score well in the small overlap front crash test. The IIHS added the test last year, according to its website. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In this test, 25% of the vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 miles per hour while a male dummy is belted in the driver’s seat, CR writes.
As Hirsch writes, the IIHS established the small overlap front crash test because such crashes can be especially severe. Although most new cars do well in full-width front crash tests, they often do poorly in the small overlap test because of the way most cars are designed to “manage crash energy,” Hirsch writes. IIHS began publishing the results of crash tests in 2009, he notes, to inspire carmakers to make safety improvements in their vehicles.
In an article for Popular Mechanics, Andrew Moseman writes that the small overlap test is “not an easy test to build for” because it:
[…] focuses all the energy in a part of the car where there is typically no frame structure to absorb the blow, making it a tougher safety challenge for new cars. For 2014 and beyond, automakers will be increasingly conscious of this new test. They’ll probably begin to reinforce the front corners of new cars and redesign or reposition airbags to protect occupants from this kind of impact.
Hirsch writes that in a statement, Toyota said:
With the small over-lap test, the Institute has raised the bar again, and we are responding to the challenge. We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area.