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Volvo nails new type of US crash test

A new US crash test offers a mixed bag of results

General News logo8 Mar 2013

SWEDISH car-maker Volvo has been rewarded for tweaking the software in US versions of its XC60 mid-size soft-roader to provide better crash safety.

The US-based Insurance Institute of Highway Safety overnight awarded the Volvo a “good” rating for a new type of crash test that has upset some car-makers who performed poorly in the initial round of tests.

The “small overlap” test, introduced by the IIHS last year as part of its crashworthiness regime last year, replicates a crash where two cars collide at a very narrow angle, similar to a car straying in front of oncoming traffic, attempting to avoid a head-on crash, or hitting a pole.

The test upset luxury and premium car makers including BMW and Volkswagen after only two of the 11 vehicles included in the test scored a “good” rating.

According to the IIHS, engineers at Volvo had “updated the airbag algorithm (in the XC60) to deploy the side curtain airbag in the small overlap test”.

However, the test noted that while the side curtain airbag deployed, it “does not have sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with forward side structure and outside objects”.

The top rating makes the XC60 the second Volvo-badged model to score well, with the S60 large sedan scoring a similar result in last year’s debut test.

Other results include a "good” rating for the Honda Civic sedan, and a lower “average” rating for the Mazda6.

According to the IIHS, the Mazda6’s score was dragged down after the dummy’s head hit the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating that “head injuries would be possible in a crash of this severity”.

The new Mazda6 did, however, attain a "good" rating in other areas of the test, including frontal moderate overlap, side, roof, and head restraint tests.

Australasian New Car Assessment Program chief executive Nick Clarke said while the local crash safety watchdog was keenly watching the IIHS small offset test results, there were no plans to introduce a similar test here just yet.

“We don’t have immediate plans to introduce that (small overlap crash test), but we’re waiting to see what happens with the (IIHS test) over the next year or two,” Mr Clarke said.

“There is a prospect that we would move to that test if we saw value there, but we need to wait and see.

“The results (of the test) are very interesting.”

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