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Crash test worry for Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla sedan receives a ‘marginal’ rating in new US crash safety test

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Toyota logo4 Oct 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON

TOYOTA’S new-generation Corolla sedan, set to arrive in Australia next year, scored only a ‘marginal’ rating this week in a major US crash test.

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the re-designed four-door the rating for its small overlap front crash test, which simulates a 40mp/h (64km/h) crash where the driver’s side front-end hits an object, such as a pole or barrier.

In its report of the crash test, the IIHS said the Corolla’s “structural performance was poor and the driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure”.

After measuring the test dummy, the IIHS said there is a chance of injury to the left lower leg in the event of a real-world crash, while its head rolled four inches to the left of the steering wheel after impact with the airbag.

This caused further risk of injury by leaving the head vulnerable to contact with the A-Pillar and the dashboard.

It wasn’t all bad news, with the report saying the Corolla’s curtain airbags protected the dummy’s head from forward side structures, such as the interior door panel, roof rail and outside objects.

Aside from the ‘marginal’ result in the small overlap front, the Corolla sedan received a score of ‘good’ for the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint and seat tests.

This is not the first time Toyota has struggled in the small overlap test, with the Camry sedan, Prius V compact MPV, and the RAV4 SUV all receiving a ‘poor’ rating in the same test in the last 12 months.

Toyota said that 21 of its current models were awarded with ‘Top Safety Pick’ honours in 2013, but those ratings do not take into account the small overlap crash tests introduced last year.

US industry publication Autonews has reported that those models would lose their Top Safety Pick honours if they were re-tested with the small overlap test.

Toyota’s US spokesperson John Hanson told Autonews in a statement that the Japanese car-maker is always working to ensure its cars are safer, while questioning whether the test translates to real-world driving experiences.

“When all-new crash tests are introduced by the [IIHS], we need to be confident that the changes needed to accommodate the tests will enhance overall safety in real world crashes,” he said.

“Toyota is committed to responding to this challenge as stridently as it has in the past, when met with more demanding and evolving vehicle performance criteria.”

The IIHS started conducting the test after research found that around 25 per cent of highway deaths in the US caused by head-on collisions were as a result of small overlap crashes.

The test conducted by IIHS is separate to the crash safety tests conducted by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that gives new models a star rating out of five, based on a series of tests.

In its assessment of new vehicle safety, the IIHS tested 12 US-spec small cars in August, with a number of them scoring the highest possible ‘Top Safety Pick+’ rating. These included the Ford Focus sedan, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic sedan and two-door coupe and the Dodge Dart.

Because of its marginal result, the Corolla sedan was not eligible for a Top Safety Pick+ rating, however it does qualify for a Top Safety Pick award, without the ‘+’.

The Australian-spec Corolla sedan that is scheduled to arrive in local showrooms in mid-2014 will be more closely related to the European version that was unveiled at the same time as the US version in June.

It is expected to be crash tested by either the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) or Euro NCAP prior to going on sale here next year.

The current-generation Corolla hatch was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP rating last year.

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