Two compact economy sedans earned the top score of five stars in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, in scores posted online today.
The Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra are the third and fourth small sedans to earn a five-star rating, after the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic. (Several small hatchbacks have also earned that highest rating.)
The Civic was redesigned for 2012; its predecessor earned a low score of three out of five stars in the same NHTSA tests, which the agency made more challenging beginning with the 2011 model year. The Elantra was updated partway through the 2012 model year to improve its frontal-impact performance — earlier models had an overall rating of four out of five stars instead of five.
In another recently posted NHTSA crash test, the 2012 Lexus ES350 entry-luxury sedan earned a low rating of three out of five stars, knocked down for weak side-impact performance. The ES350 is the second car in its class, after the Acura TL, to earn the low NHTSA score; a redesigned ES350 is due this year as a 2013 model.
NHTSA scores are based on a 35-mph frontal crash test, 38.5-mph side-impact crash test, a 20-mph side-impact test that simulates sliding into a pole or tree, and a rollover evaluation primarily based on a mathematical computation of a car’s center of gravity.
The safety agency also posted crash tests for the 2012 Ford F-250 full-size heavy-duty pickup truck and the updated 2012 Kia Soul small hatchback and 2012 Ford F-150 full-size pickup. Each earned four out of five stars overall — the most common rating in the revised NHTSA tests.
The F-250 is the second heavy-duty pickup NHTSA tested. The other, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, earned a rating of three stars; it lacks the F-250’s standard side airbags, hurting its side-impact rating, and it didn’t fare as well in the frontal crash test.
Because the frontal test simulates a head-on collision with a vehicle of equal weight, heavy vehicles like these pickup trucks face a particular challenge; the Silverado earned three out of five stars in that test; the F-250, four stars.
NHTSA has also newly noted several 2013-model vehicles whose crash test results won’t carry over from the 2012 models due to design changes: the Ford Explorer SUV, the Ford Taurus large sedan, and the Infiniti M midsize luxury sedan. Each earned four stars overall in as 2012 models. This list will likely grow as more automakers release their plans for the 2013 model year.
Of 91 individual 2012-model vehicles NHTSA has crash-tested — not counting instances where the same test applies to multiple mechanically-related vehicles — 26 models have earned an overall rating of five stars, eight have earned three stars, and the remainder have earned four stars.
Two of the 91, the Chevrolet Camaro and Volvo S60, earned perfect scores in every category and subcategory NHTSA rates. No 2012-model vehicle has earned fewer than three stars as an overall rating, though the since-updated 2011 Nissan Versa and the since-discontinued 2011 Ford Ranger pickup truck earned just two stars.
A full listing of 2012-model cars’ NHTSA scores is collected on this Scribd page; for more details, visit safercar.gov.
The NHTSA tests complement safety evaluations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which tests cars in similar but not identical crash scenarios. These crash tests, conducted under the New Car Assessment Program, are also distinct from the safety standards all cars must meet to be sold in the United States.