As a result, Consumer Reports will withdraw its recommendation of the Mazda5 and Nissan Leaf. (The 500L and Juke did not score high enough in our tests to be recommended.) Our long-standing 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 government and/or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Mazda5 is an affordable, versatile vehicle that we have enjoyed and endorsed, but this test raises serious concerns. The IIHS found that the Mazda5 earned just a Marginal rating in the side impact test, as well. This marks the Mazda as the only 2014 model that IIHS has tested to earn anything less than Acceptable.
Nissan Leaf Photo:
The Leaf experienced 16 inches of intrusion into the lower passenger compartment. IIHS notes that the instrument panel, parking brake pedal, and steering column were all pushed back toward the driver, risking numerous injuries.
The test group also included two hybrid models, the extended-range Chevrolet Volt and the Ford C-Max. Each earned an Acceptable score, one notch down from Good. The Volt is the only vehicle in this group to earn the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award, acknowledging solid marks in IIHS crash tests and the forward-collision system assessment.
The small overlap test replicates a scenario that occurs in a quarter of frontal collisions involving serious or fatal injury to front-seat occupants, even in vehicles with otherwise good crash protection. In the small overlap test, the crash forces are concentrated on just 25 percent of the vehicle’s front, compared to the 40 percent for the traditional IIHS front crash test. While both IIHS front crash tests are conducted at 40 mph, the familiar moderate offset test sees the vehicle careen into a deformable barrier and the small-overlap test uses a fixed, hard barrier that simulates striking a pole or other immovable object. (Learn more about safety in "Crash Test 101.")
With this test, IIHS has now evaluated 32 small cars in like fashion, and it found that 19 earned a Good or Acceptable rating. The other 13 recorded a Marginal or Poor rating, underscoring the need to check safety assessments before buying. (Crash test data, as well as our dynamic test results, are available on the car model pages at ConsumerReports.org.)