VIDEO: Nissan Sentra’s IIHS Small Overlap Crash Test

The Nissan Sentra improved from a “poor” to “good” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap front crash test, qualifying the 2015 model for the Top Safety Pick award.

Nissan modified the small car’s front structure, A-pillar and door sill to reduce intrusion in small overlap crashes. In addition, the side curtain airbag was lengthened to protect the driver’s head.

These changes were evident in the car’s recent crash test performance. In the small overlap front crash test, the driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of less than 5 inches at the lower door hinge pillar, IIHS said.

“The dummy’s movement was well-controlled,” IIHS noted. “The head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound, while the side curtain airbag had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.”

Measures taken from the dummy pointed to a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity. In contrast, the 2013-14 Sentra didn’t hold up as well in the test. Intrusion measured as much as 13 inches at the lower hinge pillar. The dummy’s head slid off the left side of the frontal airbag, and the side curtain airbag failed to offer adequate coverage. Measures from the dummy indicated that injuries to the left leg would be possible in a crash of this severity, IIHS said.

Introduced in 2012, the small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

The Sentra’s “good” ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests carry over to the 2015 model year. To qualify for the 2015 Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must have “good” ratings in those four tests and a “good” or “acceptable” rating in the small overlap test.

To view video footage of the crash test, click on the photo or link below the headline.