Of the 18 midsized family cars evaluated in the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap tests, only two - the United States market Honda Accord and Suzuki Kizashi earned the top rating of "good".
Of the others, 11 were given an "acceptable" rating and three were "marginal". Two, the Toyota Camry and Prius V scored "poor".
The IIHS introduced the small overlap test last year to improve occupant protection in frontal crashes. Most car makers design their vehicles for good performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal test, but many have not addressed small overlap crashes.
The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car hits another vehicle, a tree or pole.
To reward 2013 models with good crash protection, the IIHS has created the Top Safety Pick Plus award, with the Plus indicating good or acceptable performance.
Winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in a moderate overlap frontal crash, the small overlap frontal, crash, side impact and rollover tests, plus evaluations of seat-head restraints.
After several tests, 13 mid-sized models qualify for the accolade.
Models available in New Zealand include Honda Accord, Ford Fusion (Mondeo), Kia Optima, Nissan Altima (here later this year), Subaru Legacy and Outback, Suzuki's Kisashi, the VW Passat and Volvo S60. The Volvo is rated the best.
Because of their excellent performance in all but the small overlap test, the Toyota Prius V and Camry are rated as IIHS top safety picks, but without the plus.
- Sunday Star Times