March 23, 2004

Acura TL, TSX and Nissan Maxima earn top rating in 40 mph crash tests

Arlington, Virginia – In 40 mph frontal offset crash tests conducted recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, five of six new or redesigned midsize cars earned good ratings: Acura TL, Acura TSX, Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Malibu, and Mitsubishi Galant. Both Acuras and the Maxima also earned “best pick” designations in the frontal test. The only car tested that didn’t earn a good rating was the Suzuki Verona, which is rated acceptable.

The Institute has tested previous designs of the Galant, Maxima, and Malibu. In each case the performance of the new model improved.

Vehicle ratings reflect performance in 40 mph frontal offset crash tests into a deformable barrier. Based on the results, the Institute rates each vehicle from good to poor. If a vehicle earns a good rating, it means that in a real-world crash of similar severity a driver using a safety belt would be likely to walk away with little or no injury.

The first crash test of the Suzuki Verona revealed a serious airbag problem, so the Verona was tested twice. The first test revealed that the driver airbag was only partially inflated during much of the crash. Then late in the crash the airbag fully inflated, throwing the dummy’s head violently backward into the door pillar. Very high injury measures were recorded on the dummy’s head during this impact. Suzuki engineers subsequently determined there was a manufacturing defect — the airbag inflation module was improperly wired.

“What happened in the first test of the Verona led Suzuki to identify a serious safety-related defect, which was fixed for cars in production. All models produced earlier were recalled. When we tested a second Verona with the defect fixed, the airbag deployed correctly,” Lund says.

The Verona’s structure held up well in the Institute’s frontal offset test. However, “the driver seat pitched forward slightly and tipped toward the door,” Lund points out. “Forces recorded on the dummy indicated the likelihood of leg injuries. This is why the Verona didn’t earn the Institute’s highest rating of good.”

Compared with its two predecessor models, the new Galant is a good example of improved structural design. “The 1995 Galant was one of the worst performers in the frontal offset test,” Lund says. “The occupant compartment virtually collapsed, the dummy moved to the left of the deploying airbag, and the windshield frame was driven back toward the dummy’s head. Plus the dummy’s left knee crashed through the dashboard and hit the steering column assembly.”
When the Institute tested a redesigned 1999 Galant, its structure had been improved, and it earned an acceptable rating. Still there was moderate rearward movement of the instrument panel and intrusion into the driver footwell area that could lead to lower leg injury.

“The structure of the 2004 Galant was much better,” Lund says. “The space around the driver dummy was well maintained, and there was minimal intrusion into the occupant compartment. The possibility of a lower right leg injury kept the Galant from earning the added designation of

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