Out of all six pickups recently tested, the Nissan Frontier’s structure held up the best. 
 -  Photo: Nissan

Out of all six pickups recently tested, the Nissan Frontier’s structure held up the best.

Photo: Nissan

Three out of six small pickups — the Chevrolet Colorado crew cab, GMC Canyon crew cab, and Honda Ridgeline crew cab — earned good scores in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) updated side crash test.

What’s more, the Nissan Frontier crew cab and Ford Ranger crew cab garnered acceptable ratings. Only the Toyota Tacoma crew cab took home a marginal rating.

IIHS experts applaud the group, calling it an “overall solid performance” for small pickups. IIHS developed the updated side crash test after 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.

The six pickups fared relatively well considering the rigors of the new crash evaluation. For example, the new test uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed to simulate the striking vehicle. The new barrier weighs 4,200 pounds — close to the weight of today’s midsize SUVs — and strikes the test vehicle at 37 mph, compared with a 3,300-pound barrier traveling at 31 mph in the original evaluation.

In the case of the three top performers — the good-rated Colorado, Canyon, and Ridgeline — the structure and safety cages held up pretty well, indicating a minimal risk of most injuries. That said, injury measures taken from the dummies pointed to a possibility of a pelvic fracture for the driver of the Colorado, the Canyon, and especially the Ridgeline.

Noteworthy, the Frontier’s structure held up the best out of all six vehicles, and the Ranger’s occupant compartment was also maintained relatively well, minimizing the risk of most injuries. However, the rear passenger dummies’ heads struck the C-pillar through the side curtain airbag in both acceptable-rated vehicles.

Conversely, structural performance was a problem for the Tacoma. The pickup’s structure and safety cage were not maintained well during the crash. The impact from the striking barrier crumpled the door sill and B-pillar, pushing the B-pillar to within a few inches of the center of the driver seat. Because structural integrity is so closely linked to survivability, IIHS engineers count it as a critical factor in scoring, which is why the Tacoma only managed a marginal rating.

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