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Backseat Bruises: Small cars underperform in rear-seat passenger protection, IIHS report says

Toronto, Ontario — Small cars are the latest vehicle to record less-than-stellar results in the IIHS’s updated moderate overlap crash test, with the Institute reporting that many of the tested vehicles failed to protect their rear-seat passengers.

Bearing an unfortunate resemblance to its recent testing of midsize SUVs in the same test, the U.S.’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that none of the five small cars it tested performed adequately enough to earn a rating higher than “Acceptable.”

The pool of test vehicles consisted of a 2022-23 Honda Civic sedan, 2023 Toyota Corolla sedan, 2022-23 Kia Forte, 2022-23 Nissan Sentra and a 2022-23 Subaru Crosstrek.

The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla led the pack by comparison, each earning “Acceptable” ratings, while the Forte, Sentra and Crosstrek received ratings of “Poor”, following the test.

“These results highlight one of the key reasons that we updated our moderate overlap front crash test,” said IIHS president David Harkey.

“In all the small cars we tested, the rear dummy ‘submarined’ under the seat belt, causing the lap belt to ride up onto the abdomen and increasing the risk of internal injuries.”

The IIHS has long been calling on automakers to revise their in-house crash testing standards to account for better safety features for rear-seat passengers, as numerous tests from the institute have shown their increased risk of injury in a collision, as compared to the front-seat passenger or driver.

The institute’s report on these recent tests did note, however, that “this is not because the rear seat has become less safe.

“Rather, the front seat has become safer because of improved airbags and advanced seat belts that are rarely available in [the] back. Even with these developments, the back seat remains the safest place for young children, who can be injured by an inflating front airbag,” read the report.

In short, the institute is looking for parity between front-seat and rear-seat safety performance.

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