NHTSA crash tests more vehicles under new, tougher 5-star ratings system

Consumer Reports News: March 25, 2011 12:13 PM

The redesigned Kia Optima earned perfect five stars in all categories of the more stringent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Safety Ratings system. The Optima joins the Honda Accord as the only two models thus far to achieve the government's top rating for front and side crash, rollover and overall vehicle score. The Kia is just one of a number of vehicles the government agency has recently tested to assess crash worthiness in 2011 models.

Other notable models include the Honda Odyssey and Buick LaCrosse, which both earn five stars in all categories besides rollover, where they achieve a four-star rating. Also, the Chevrolet Cruze, Volvo XC60, Chevrolet Silverado crew cab 1500 and matching GMC Sierra--as well as their hybrid counterparts--also gets the same ratings as the LaCrosse and Odyssey. The lowest scores belong to the two-star Nissan Versa (with three stars for frontal, two for side and four for rollover) and the Ford Ranger, with two stars overall and for the front crash.

Before this new system was adopted, nearly all vehicles received five stars in the tested categories and there wasn't an overall rating, making it difficult for consumers to determine the better performers. Under the new, more rigorous ratings system, not all vehicles will earn the highest score even if they had achieved that the top level before.

One benefit of the upgraded, stricter system is that it will encourage automakers to build safer cars. Since the new tests began last fall, a number of manufacturers have tweaked their designs to improve the crash worthiness and safety of their vehicles to earn a higher score.

For example, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata initially scored three stars in the front crash test and four in the overall score, with a more impressive five for side and rollover. For a later release, Hyundai made improvements and the three stars became four and the four stars a five. So now the Sonata, including the new hybrid, earns five stars in all categories except for the front crash where it remains at four stars. This is just one example of many, showing how the NHTSA system, as well as testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both informs consumers and is truly motivating continued improvement in occupant protection.

It is important to note that, despite the temptation to do so, 2011 NHTSA results cannot be compared against those from 2010 model years and prior due to the changes in methodology and calculation.

In this first year of the new ratings, NHTSA will rate 24 passenger cars, 20 SUVs, two vans, and nine pickup trucks. Below is a list of the latest models tested. See our coverage of previous models tests in the links below.

Make and model Overall frontal crash rating Overall side crash rating Rollover rating Overall vehicle score
Buick LaCrosse AWD/FWD 5 5 4 5
Dodge Caliber 4 3 4 3
Ford Edge AWD/FWD 3 5 4 4
Ford F-150 4WD 3 5 3 4
Ford F-150 2WD 3 5 4 4
Ford Fusion AWD 3 4 5 4
Ford Fusion FWD/Hybrid 3 4 4 4
Ford Ranger 2 3 3 2
Honda Odyssey 5 5 4 5
Hyundai Sonata (latest release & hybrid) mfg. after 9/7/10 4 5 5 5
Kia Forte 4 4 4 4
Kia Optima 5 5 5 5
Lincoln MKZ AWD 3 4 5 4
Lincoln MKZ FWD 3 4 4 4
Mercury Milan AWD 3 4 5 4
Mercury Milan FWD 3 4 4 4
Nissan Murano AWD/FWD 4 5 4 4
Subaru Forester 4 3 4 4
Toyota Camry (later release & hybrid) 3 4 4 4
Toyota Highlander AWD/FWD & hybrid 4 5 4 4
Toyota Prius 4 5 4 5
Toyota RAV4 (AWD/FWD) 3 4 4 3
Toyota Tundra Double Cab RWD 4 5 3 4
Toyota Tundra Double Cab AWD 4 5 4 4
Toyota Tundra Regular Cab AWD 4 5 4 4
Toyota Tundra Regular Cab RWD 4 5 3 4

See the list of the models released previously:
NHTSA unveils vehicle ratings under updated star safety system
NHTSA releases second batch of vehicle ratings under new system
NHTSA crash tests pickup trucks under the new more rigorous ratings system
Latest NHTSA 5-star crash results--Honda Civic only gets two stars
NHTSA crash tests more vehicles under new 5-Star system, Chevrolet Cruze and Volvo XC60 excel
Chevrolet Volt earns strong ratings in government crash tests

Liza Barth


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