The Front Small Overlap Test (safety test from IIHS – Crash Testing & Highway Safety), simulating an impact with a tree, makes that big names from the compact SUVs family to fail: BMW X1, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35 – behaving poorly, while Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi ASX have passed the test with flying colors.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) the North American equivalent of the European EuroNCAP organization, made a stir in the automotive world last fall, after in a completely new safety test managed to get some safety awarded models like Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class or Lexus IS, to behave very poorly.
Front Small Overlap Test
We are talking about the so-called Small Overlap Test (SOT), which simulates an impact at 40 mph (64 km/h) with a rigid barrier overlapping only 25% of the front of the car, on the driver’s side. This test simulates an impact with a tree, or another vehicle, or with a pole, a scenario responsible for a quarter of the deaths and serious injuries from the American roads. The ratings are as follows: Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor.
How the Institute determines ratings:
Moderate overlap and small overlap front crash tests receive the highest weight, followed by side and rollover, and then rear.
To earn Top Safety Pick+ vehicles must receive good ratings in 4 of the 5 tests and no less than acceptable in the fifth test.
To earn Top Safety Pick vehicles must receive good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests regardless of ratings in the new small overlap front test.
Moderate overlap front — Ratings should be compared only among vehicles of similar weight.
Small overlap front — Ratings should be compared only among vehicles of similar weight.
Side — Ratings can be compared across vehicle type and weight categories. Except where noted, models have a standard complement of side airbags, generally consisting of front and rear curtain airbags to protect the head and front seat-mounted airbags to protect the torso.
Rollover/roof strength — Ratings can be compared across vehicle type and weight categories.
Rear/head restraints — Ratings should be compared only among vehicles of similar weight.
IIHS announced at the end of this spring the results of a new series of the Small Overlap Test, this time the small SUVs being tested for safety. And the results are not encouraging, models with excellent results on EuroNCAP tests received marginal or poor ratings on the new test.
Small Overlap Test 2013 – The Results
In fact, the only model that managed to receive the maximum rating (Good) is the latest generation 2014 Subaru Forester, who managed the same result on the previous ‘classic’ tests. The Japanese model was followed by the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (ASX in Europe) who was rated as Acceptable in the Small Overlap Test.
The two Japanese models are as of today the only small SUVs in the segment that can boast with the Top Safety Pick+ distinction, IIHS giving this award to the models who have very good results at all the five test categories: Frontal Impact, Side Impact, Rollover, Rear Impact and Small Overlap Test.
Continuing the final safety test results came four models that are very well perceived on the European market. It is the 2013 BMW X1, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2014 Mazda CX-5 and 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan, but they only managed to receive the Marginal rating.
Finally, five other models failed to pass the test of the Small Overlap Test from IIHS. It is the 2013 Buick Encore, 2014 Jeep Patriot, 2013 Ford Escape and the 2013 Kia Sportage and 2013 Hyundai Tucson (ix35 in Europe). The five models received the lowest IIHS rating at the Front Small Overlap Test (Poor), even if they excelled at all the other tests in the session.
According to the IIHS engineers, the issues raised in the case of cars that otherwise successfully pass the other tests is that the Front Small Overlap Test simulates the frontal collision with an object (tree, obstacle, car) on only just 25% of the front of the car tested. “For many vehicles, the impact on only 25% of car’s frontal part simply misses the vehicle’s primary safety structure designed to absorb from the energy resulted from impact. This underlies a very high risk of damage or destruction of the safety structure surrounding the passenger.”
Another problem identified by the American engineers is that in the case of the Front Small Overlap Test, the car tends to slide and rotate sideways after impact, making passengers to feel inertia and “miss” the airbag. “Two-thirds of the cars tested so far have received poor grades regarding the Kinetic and Structural Resistance at this test.”
Front Small Overlap Test via IIHS