March 21, 2002

Crash Tests!

Arlington, Virginia – A recent series of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety included three new small cars, the Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer, and Volvo S40; a redesigned full-size pickup, the Dodge Ram; and a new minivan, the Kia Sedona.

All three small cars earned ‘good’ crashworthiness evaluations, and the Sedona minivan was rated ‘acceptable’ overall. The 2002 Ram was rated ‘good’, a big improvement compared with the 2001 Ram, which the Institute rated ‘poor’.

2002 Subaru Impreza
2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS

2002 Mitsubishi Lancer
2002 Mitsubishi Lancer LS

2002 Volvo S40
2002 Volvo S40

2002 Kia Sedona
2002 Kia Sedona LX

2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab
2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab SLT

The small car results “are good news,” said Institute president, Brian O’Neill. “All three are good performers and two of them, the Impreza and Lancer, earn our ‘best pick’ designation,”. “This brings to 7 the number of good performers among the 15 current small car designs we’ve evaluated, and 4 of the 7 are ‘best picks’. In contrast, a few years ago we only had one good performer among the small cars.”

The Impreza was the top-rated small car: The occupant compartment of the Subaru Impreza maintained its shape extremely well in the offset test, and the dummy’s movement was well controlled. All measures recorded on the dummy indicated low risk of injury. “This was a very good performance,” O’Neill said.

The Mitsubishi Lancer (soon to be available in Canada) improved when compared with its predecessor, the Mirage which was rated ‘poor’. The Lancer’s occupant compartment held up well and injury measures were low. Lower intrusion measures, which indicate a vehicle’s structure is doing what it’s supposed to do (keep the occupant compartment intact, with little or no intrusion into the driver’s space), and all 10 measures of intrusion and steering wheel movement were dramatically lower (better) for the new Lancer design compared with the Mirage.

Performance of the Volvo S40 was good, but not as good as Impreza and Lancer. The Volvo S40 performed well in the Institute’s offset test. There was minimal to moderate intrusion into the occupant compartment. Forces on the dummy’s right tibia indicated the possibility of injury, and the dummy’s movement could have been better controlled during the crash.

The Kia Sedona minivan was rated ‘acceptable’. The IIHS reported moderate intrusion into the occupant compartment during the offset test. The dummy’s head struck the steering wheel through the airbag, in part because of too much steering column movement. During rebound, the head went partway out the window before it struck the B-pillar. “This is poor control of the dummy,” O’Neill pointed out, “and it compromised restraint system performance.”

There was a dramatic improvement in the crash performance of the Dodge Ram pickup design. In the previous Ram, there was significant intrusion into the occupant compartment and poor control of dummy movement during the offset test. The airbag deployed late, which contributed to high head and neck injury measures. In contrast, the new Ram design is a good performer. Nine of 10 measures of intrusion and steering wheel movement were dramatically lower (better):

The Institute’s frontal offset crash test into a deformable barrier is especially demanding of vehicle structure. The driver side hits the barrier, so a relatively small area of the vehicle’s front-end structure must manage the crash energy. This means intrusion into the occupant compartment is more likely to occur than in a full-width test.

“Good structural design is the key to good performance in the offset test,” O’Neill noted. “If a car’s front-end structure absorbs and manages the crash energy so the occupant compartment remains largely intact, with little or no intrusion into the driver’s space, then the dummy’s movement is likely to be controlled, and injury measures are likely to be low. In contrast, poor structural design means greater likelihood of poor control of the dummy and high injury measures.”

The Institute’s crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of frontal offset crash tests at 40 mph. Each vehicle’s overall evaluation is based on three aspects of performance – measurements of occupant compartment intrusion, injury measures from a Hybrid III dummy positioned in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

The same 40 mph offset crash test is used to evaluate new cars by the European Union in cooperation with motor clubs and by an Australian consortium of state governments and motor clubs.

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