To date, the 2022 Subaru Outback is the only midsize car to capture a good rating in a new side crash test conducted by IIHS engineers.  -  Photo: IIHS

To date, the 2022 Subaru Outback is the only midsize car to capture a good rating in a new side crash test conducted by IIHS engineers.

Photo: IIHS

Four out of seven 2022 midsize cars garnered marginal or poor ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) updated side crash test. While the Honda Accord managed to roll away with a marginal score, the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Chevrolet Malibu all earned a poor rating.

On the upside, three cars performed relatively well when undergoing the rigorous evaluation. While the Subaru Outback is the only midsize car to earn a good rating, both the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta pulled in acceptable ratings due to somewhat higher levels of occupant compartment intrusion.

Noteworthy, all seven vehicles evaluated earned good ratings in the original IIHS side test. So why did these cars falter during the new side crash test?

IIHS engineers believe it could have to do with the fact that the vehicles — unlike SUVs, for example — sit lower to the ground. That means the striking barrier hits higher on the door panel, putting these cars at a disadvantage in this evaluation. However, the test reflects what happens in a real-world crash when midsize cars are struck by a higher-riding pickup or SUV.

There were significant reasons four of the cars did not fare well. For example, there was moderate intrusion of the B-pillar into the occupant compartment of the Accord. Injury measures for the driver’s pelvis were somewhat elevated, and the driver’s head moved downward past the side curtain airbag to contact the windowsill during the crash.

The Altima and Malibu showed substantial intrusion into the occupant compartment, but the safety cage of the Camry held up well. Injury measures indicated a high risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver in the Altima, a moderate risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver and high risk of pelvis injuries for the rear passenger in the Camry, and a high risk of head or neck injuries for the driver in the Malibu. In all three vehicles, the heads of either the driver or rear passenger dummy or both slipped below the side curtain airbag to contact the windowsill.

Conversely, risk of injuries was lower and less severe in the case of the three cars that earned higher ratings.

For instance, the head-protecting airbags for the driver and rear passenger performed well in the Outback, Sonata, and Jetta, contributing to a low risk of head and neck injuries for occupants in both seating positions. However, injury measures were somewhat elevated for the driver’s pelvis and rear passenger’s torso in the Jetta and the rear passenger’s pelvis in the Sonata.

IIHS developed the new test because research showed that many of the real-world side impacts that still account for nearly a quarter of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities are more severe than the original evaluation. Presently, the updated crash test is not included in the IIHS criteria for its Top Safety Pick awards program, but it will be in 2023.

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