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Simulated Motor Vehicle Accidents Reveal Poor Performance Among Small SUVs

A popular small sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, earned a "poor" rating in recent motor vehicle accident tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, it is not alone. Of the 13 other SUV models tested, only two, the Subaru Forrester and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received ratings of "acceptable" or "good."

The test involved a simulation of a common motor vehicle accident: The driver's side front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle, a tree, utility pole or other rigid object at 40 mph. The results of the test were not encouraging, especially to manufacturers of small SUVs.

In the case of the Toyota, the driver's space was "seriously compromised by intruding structure and the [crash test] dummy's left foot was trapped by crashed and buckled sheet metal in the footwell," according to IIHS spokesperson Adrian Lund.

In addition, the airbag did not protect the dummy's head and the seat belt allowed too much forward movement of the head and torso. This allowed the dummy's head to hit the instrument panel of the vehicle.

Small and mid-sized SUVs such as those recently tested by the IIHS make up one of the fastest-growing sectors of the automotive industry. But other popular models such as the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V and Jeep Wrangler, like the Toyota RAV4, received only "marginal" or "poor" ratings.

IIHS President Adrian Lund observed, "Most manufacturers are going to need to make significant changes to their vehicles in order to improve protection in these kinds of serious frontal crashes."

Source: Daily News, "Toyota RAV4 SUV performs poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap front crash test," Jul. 12, 2013.