The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is beefing up its side crash test, but only one small sedan received the highest rating of good, while several others were rated as acceptable or poor.

The Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback earned the highest rating in the new side crash test, while the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla sedan, Toyota Corolla hatchback, Honda Civic sedan and Honda Civic hatchback received the acceptable rating. The Kia Forte, Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Impreza sedan and wagon were rated as poor.

“It’s encouraging to see so many small cars with passing grades in this new side test,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller, who spearheaded the development of the evaluation. “Smaller, lower vehicles are at a disadvantage when struck by the new test barrier, which is a more realistic representation of the front end of a typical modern SUV than our old barrier. Clearly, some manufacturers have already figured out how to provide sufficient protection in a crash like this even for occupants of small cars.” 

The IIHS created the new side crash test to mimic more rear-world side impacts, since it found that nearly a quarter of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were more severe than the original evaluation. The new side crash test uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed to simulate the striking vehicle. The new barrier weighs 4,200 pounds, which is close to the weight of a midsize SUVs — and strikes the test vehicle at 37 mph, compared with a 3,300-pound barrier traveling at 31 mph in the original test.

This new test will factor into the 2023 IIHS award criteria, where a good or acceptable rating will be required for the lower-tier Top Safety Pick award and a good rating will be needed for the higher-tier Top Safety Pick+. This means that as of right now, the Mazda 3 will be the only small car to earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating next year.



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