A relatively new crash test, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, shows that some vehicles are much better than others at protecting their occupants in certain types of frontal collisions. And as a result of poor results in this small-overlap frontal crash test, we are dropping our recommendations for four popular models: the Audi A4 and Toyota Camry, Prius V, and RAV4.
Introduced in 2012, the small-overlap test is designed to replicate what happens when only the front corner of a vehicle strikes an object. According to a 2009 IIHS study, this happens in about a quarter of frontal collisions involving serious or fatal injury to front-seat occupants, even in cars with otherwise good crash protection.
Consumer Reports’ longstanding criteria for recommending vehicles stipulates that a model score well in our testing, have average or better reliability, and perform adequately if included in crash tests performed by the IIHS and the government. Initially, we held off factoring in this new test until the IIHS had put a significant number of vehicles through it.
As of now, the IIHS has tested more than 60 cars and SUVs, with only 11 vehicles earning a Good rating (the highest) and 15 rating Poor. Clearly, some automakers will have to change their vehicles’ designs to do well in this test. With this large volume of test results that show such a wide range of results, we now feel it’s time to remove our recommendation from any vehicle that received a Poor score in the test so we can help consumers choose the safest cars.
Because most of the models that scored poorly are already not recommended by Consumer Reports for other reasons, the A4 and the three Toyotas are the only ones affected. In each case, there are several good recommended alternatives with better crash-test results. Those models could regain their recommendations if they are retested in the small-overlap test and achieve better scores. Manufacturers are working aggressively to improve performance in the test.