IIHS: Crash Tests Prove Teens Need Big Vehicles

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November 6, 2018—The Institute for Insurance Highway Safety recently conducted a pair of front-to-front crash tests demonstrating what happens to small cars and minicars—even new ones with stellar safety ratings—when they collide with larger used vehicles from the same manufacturer. The results show the importance of size and weight when it comes to occupant protection.

The tests reinforce a message IIHS has been sending since it began publishing an annual list of recommended used vehicles for teens in 2014: An older, larger used vehicle is often a safer choice than a newer small vehicle that costs similarly. This year's list of recommended vehicles for teens includes 53 Best Choices, which start under $20,000, and 62 Good Choices, which start under $10,000.

All the models on both lists are midsize cars or larger.

In the first of the two demonstration tests, a used 2016 Kia Sorento, a midsize SUV, and a 2018 Kia Forte, a small car, collided with each other. In the second test, a used 2015 Toyota Avalon, a large car, was paired with a 2018 Toyota Yaris iA, a minicar. Both the Sorento and the Avalon are among the IIHS Best Choices for teens. The Forte and the Yaris iA have good ratings in the five IIHS tests relevant to driver protection, and the Forte is a 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winner.

In each test, the vehicles traveled toward each other at 40 mph, with 50 percent of the smaller vehicle's width overlapping the larger vehicle. Forces on the driver dummies in the smaller vehicles were much greater than those in the larger vehicles. Measurements indicated a high likelihood of head injuries for the driver of both the Yaris iA and the Forte in a real-world crash of the same severity. Right leg injuries would be likely in the Forte and possible in the Yaris iA. Neck and chest injuries would also be possible for drivers of both vehicles.

In contrast, the Avalon and Sorento had mostly good injury measures, aside from a possible right leg injury in both.

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