Photo by Brady Holt

Today the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released results from its new small overlap frontal crash test. Though the name’s a bit of a mouthful, the concept is pretty straightforward. In a small overlap frontal crash only 25 percent of the car’s front end (on the driver’s side) strikes the barrier.

Why the new test? Research, of course. Even though most cars perform well in current frontal crash tests (which look at full-width impact), in the real world, frontal crashes are responsible for more than 10,000 fatalities each year.

To account for the discrepancy, researchers spent years analyzing data and replicating crashes and determined that small overlap crashes, rather than full-width crashes, are a major source of these fatalities. In an ongoing quest to provide relevant safety info to drivers, the IIHS designed this new test to account for these types of accidents.

Results of the frontal overlap crash test

Luxury and near-luxury cars were first to be tested because typically they get advanced safety features sooner than other vehicles. But it turns out most don’t make the grade. Only 3 of the 11 cars tested came back with good or acceptable ratings.

Here’s a summary of the results (all are 2012 models):

  • Acura TL — Good
  • Volvo S60 — Good
  • Infiniti G — Acceptable
  • Acura TSX (sedan / sport wagon) — Marginal
  • BMW 3 series — Marginal
  • Lincoln MKZ — Marginal
  • Volkswagen CC — Marginal
  • Mercedes C-Class — Poor
  • Lexus IS 250/350 — Poor
  • Audi A4 — Poor
  • Lexus ES 350 — Poor
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Next, the IIHS will study midsized, moderately priced cars like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry.

New criteria for IIHS Top Safety Picks

These new test results also bring stricter criteria for choosing top safety picks. Because not enough vehicles have been through this test yet, the 2013 picks will largely reflect the old standards. Cars that have performed well in the new test, however, will get to claim a higher award level that will be announced later this year.

Carmakers are generally responsive to IIHS crash results, and we hope this will be no exception. Judging from these preliminary results, it looks like a lot of companies have their work cut out for them.

Read the full IIHS report.

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about Jessica

During her time as senior copywriter at Esurance, Jessica wrote about everything from automotive trends to insurance tips to driving dogs (it’s a thing!). In her free time, you can find Jessica hiking with her dog (who cannot drive), devouring a good mystery, or very slowly learning Spanish.