The redesigned 2023 Honda Accord was the only midsize sedan tested to earn a top “Good” rating on a new crash test that measures rear-seat passenger protection, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced Wednesday.
“In most of the midsize cars we tested, the rear dummy slid forward, or ‘submarined,’ beneath the lap belt…increasing the risk of internal injuries,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement.
Of the seven midsize cars tested, the 2023 Subaru Outback earned an “Acceptable” rating, while the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima rated at “Marginal.” The Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, and Volkswagen Jetta were rated at “Poor,” due to likely injuries to the head and neck as well as the chest.
The updated test measures the safety of rear occupants at a time when crash safety has focused on front occupants. Not long ago, the rear seats were considered the safest place in a car. Much has changed on roadways since the original moderate overlap front crash test launched in 1995. In recent years, car cabins have incorporated more rigid crumple zones so there is less deformation from a front crash in the passenger cabin. More front airbags and advanced seat belts also have benefited front passengers.
Since 2007, the risk of a fatal injury in a crash is 46% higher for belted rear passengers than belted front passengers, according to the IIHS. The nonprofit agency funded by the insurance industry updates its tests as more automakers attain “Good” ratings. Every one of the seven sedans tested earned “Good” ratings for protecting the front riders.
The front overlap test simulates a head-on collision of two vehicles of similar weight traveling just below 40 mph. The difference this year is the IIHS added a dummy behind the driver dummy to replicate a small woman or 12-year-old child in the rear seat. The rear dummy gets tested for excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, or thigh. Chest injuries are a particular focus since they are the most common serious injury in the rear seat for adults. It also tests to see if the body “submarines” beneath the lap belt, or slides down and forward in the seat so the lap belt hits the chest or neck area in the event of crash.
The IIHS called the Accord’s rear-seat crash protection “a rare good rating” in the updated test. Of the five compact cars tested this year, none of them earned a “Good” rating in protecting rear passengers. That may not be surprising given the segment’s size and the increased height and weight of other vehicles on roads as the market has shifted to crossovers and SUVs. But the majority of three-row SUVs and small crossovers tested this year received “Poor” ratings, as well.
Of the 13 midsize and three-row crossovers, only the Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent, and Tesla Model Y earned “Good” ratings. Of the 15 small and compact crossovers tested, only the Ford Escape and Volvo XC40 earned “Good” ratings. Nine of the models tested rated at “Poor.”
For the midsize sedans, the IIHS found that the “Poor” ratings on the Kia K5 and Hyundai Sonata were a result of submarining and the shoulder belt moving off the shoulder to the neck, but the VW Jetta’s rating was due to the rear passenger’s head nearly hitting the front seatback.
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