Hybrids Score High in Crash Safety

By dancurranjr On August 17th, 2009

In addition to getting higher gas mileage, there’s good safety news about three 2010 small cars – including two hybrids – from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids and the Kia Soul all received the Insurance Institute’s top rating of Good (on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor) in front, side and rear crash testing. They are all going to be Top Safety Picks. To be a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle has to earn good ratings in all three tests and must offer electronic stability control.

Electronic stability control comes as standard equipment on all Soul and Prius models. It is standard equipment on the more expensive models of the Insight, the EX and EX with the navigation system; it is not even available as an option on the least expensive model, the LX.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety The Kia Soul, post front crash test.

The Insurance Institute did not conduct its own front and side crash tests of the Prius. Because the previous generation of the Prius received good ratings in the two tests, it was eligible for the agency’s crash test verification program. Under this program, the Insurance Institute asks automakers to provide their crash test data and film of the crash tests for a particular vehicle. The Insurance Institute’s engineers then verify the data, said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the institute. During the year they will then randomly crash test a couple of vehicles from the program as a spot check to ensure they are getting accurate information from the automakers.

Here are some detailed findings from the crash tests:

  • In the Insight’s frontal crash, the driver dummy’s head hit the side curtain air bag, which deployed, keeping the head away from stiff structures in the vehicle that could cause injury. In the Insight’s side impact there was a possibility of rib fractures, but the risk of other significant injuries was low.
  • In the Prius’ frontal crash test, the driver dummy’s head hit the B-pillar (the one next to the shoulder), but the impact was relatively low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the air bag and that impact was hard.
  • On the frontal impact in the Soul, the dummy’s head leaned part of the way out the open side window and hit the top and rear portions of the window frame, but the force was low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the front air bag, indicating that head injuries would be possible.

It is important to keep in mind that the frontal impact results are valid only when comparing models of about the same weight. A Prius and an Insight would do a good job of protecting occupants if they were in a crash with each other or other vehicles of similar size. If they were in a crash with even a slightly larger vehicle, which a recent test done by the institute showed, the same results would most likely not apply. Side crash test results, however, apply no matter what size vehicles you are comparing.

SOURCE: New York Times

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