Skip to main content

Moderately priced cars now outperform luxury models in safety

IIHS says that in general the family vehicles are now as safe or safer than the luxury vehicles as a group. Offers new benchmark called Top Safety Pick+.


Based on the advertisements we are all bombarded with, even on Facebook on Christmas, by automakers, one would surmise that the luxury brands have the edge in safety, but testing proves otherwise. In a recent effort to stay relevant, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has changed the crash tests it performs on new cars. In order to do well on this new test the automakers will now have to slightly change the way they design their front ends and front airbags.

The interesting surprise was that the models most affected by the new change in testing were not the average everyday sedans most people drive, but rather the high priced luxury vehicles, often made by the same parent companies of the models doing well.

In the new test, the cars will all be tested as they had been, but they will also now have to endure a test that is slightly more destructive because it puts the full force of the vehicle into a smaller area. The test is supposed to simulate two cars coming together with just the corners of the front ends touching, or a car hitting a tree or other object in this way.

Therefore, less of the front structure is involved in the crash. The IIHS says this type of crash is very common. Which begs the question, why hasn’t the institute been doing this test all along if it is a common type of crash of concern to us all. Mystery. To signify which cars do well on the new test, the IIHS offers a new benchmark called Top Safety Pick +.

The top performer in the new test is represented by the four door Honda Accord. It does well in every situation. However, by contrast, arch rival Camry, made by Toyota did poorly in the same test. Very similar cars, but very different results. The Prius V also did quite badly in the test as the video below shows. Not all luxury models did badly, the Volvo S60 was one of the expensive small luxury sedans that was first tested using the new method and it aced it.

Marketing safety in automobiles is not new, but having reliable, independent test results from a quality organization is new. The government used to test cars, and still does, but the tests are not as thorough or as widely respected as the IIHS testing. Like with much of government, the quasi-private sector offers more and better services. One very interesting fact that the IIHS has discovered though scientific examination, is that blind spot warning and other luxury brand safety features don’t seem to offer protection from crashes. For more on that please click this link.

What is your opinion as a reader? Do you think the new testing is valid or is it just a way for IIHS to continue to be relevant now that almost all vehicles do well on its legacy tests?

Photo and video courtesy of IIHS