January 13, 2004

New side and curtain airbags improve crash performance of Honda CR-V, Ford Escape

Arlington, Virginia – The 2005 Honda CR-V equipped with standard side airbags and curtain airbags designed to protect occupants’ heads and torsos earned the top rating of good in recent side impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2005 Ford Escape also earned a good rating, but only when it’s equipped with optional side curtain airbags. Without the side curtain airbags, the Escape is rated poor for side impact protection.

The Institute tested the CR-V because of the recent addition of standard curtain-style side airbags. The Escape was tested because Ford changed the optional torso/head combination for front-seat occupants to curtain-style airbags that protect the heads of occupants in both front and rear seats. Separate side airbags designed to protect front-seat occupants’ torsos come with the curtains on the CR-V but not the Escape.

“Honda and Ford made changes to their small SUVs to improve occupant protection in side crashes. Still, most small SUVs are rated marginal or poor in this test,” says Institute chief operating officer Adrian Lund.

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 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 dummy is positioned in the driver seat, and one is in the rear seat behind the driver.

When the Institute tested a 2003 model CR-V, side airbags with head protection weren’t available. The CR-V without such airbags earned a marginal rating.

For 2005 Honda added head-protecting side curtain airbags as standard equipment. Honda also made front-seat-mounted torso airbags standard (they formerly were optional) and strengthened the pillar between the doors.

In an earlier test, the 2001-04 Ford Escape earned a good rating for side impact protection when equipped with optional combination torso/head airbags that deploy from the side of the front seats. But Ford recently made two changes to the side airbags in this vehicle. In 2005 Escapes built through August 2004, Ford replaced the optional combination torso/head airbags in the front seat with curtain-style airbags that deploy from the roof area above the windows to protect the heads of both front and rear occupants. In Escapes built after August 2004, front-seat-mounted torso airbags were added – but only in the United States.

The side impact crash test rating for the 2005 Escape applies to Escapes built after August with the optional airbags. This rating also applies to similar vehicles sold as the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute when they’re equipped with optional side airbags.

“The earlier Escape with optional airbags was a good performer,” Lund points out, “but the airbags only protected the front-seat occupants. Even though injury measures for the rear dummy in the earlier test were low, curtain airbags are an improvement because they protect the rear occupants’ heads as well as the heads of people in the front seat.”

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