June 6, 2005

Audi A4, Chevrolet Malibu get top ratings in side impact crash tests

Arlington, Virginia – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced side impact crash test ratings for five 2005 model year sedans on Sunday. The Audi A4 with standard side airbags and the Chevrolet Malibu equipped with optional side airbags earned “good” ratings. They also earned the Institute’s “best pick” designation. The Volvo S60 was given the second highest rating of “acceptable”. The Suzuki Verona and Nissan Maxima were rated “marginal”. No vehicle in the group was rated poor.

For the 2005 model year, the Malibu added torso airbags for front-seat occupants to improve protection of the chest and abdomen with the curtain airbags as an optional airbag package. As a result, the Malibu’s rating improved from “acceptable” to “good”. However, the 2005 Malibu without the optional airbags is rated “poor” in the side impact test.

The Volvo S60’s performance was not as good as the A4’s or Malibu’s. With the standard curtain airbags, head protection was good. But forces on the driver dummy’s pelvis were high.

The results for the Verona and Maxima show that vehicles with weak side structures are unlikely to provide effective protection in serious side crashes, even if they’re equipped with head-protecting airbags, said the Institute. Both of these cars earned good ratings for driver head protection because of the standard side airbags, but the marginal performances of their structures contributed to high forces elsewhere on the driver dummies in both cars and on the rear dummy in the Verona.

In the Institute’s side impact test, a moving deformable barrier strikes the driver side of a passenger vehicle at 31 mph. The barrier weighs 3,300 pounds and has a front end that is shaped to simulate the front end of a typical pickup or SUV. In each side-struck vehicle are two instrumented dummies the size of a small (5th percentile) woman, one positioned in the driver seat and one in the rear seat behind the driver.

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