2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Gets 4-Star NHTSA Safety Rating

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A few months after going on sale, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid has been given an official crash-test rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Unlike the 5-star rated, five-door Prius liftback it is based on however, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid only managed a 4-star overall rating.

Similar to its sibling, the $32,000 plug-in car fared best in the side-impact crash test, where it received a 5-star rating. 

In all other tests, including frontal crash and rollover, it was awarded four stars.

The 2012 Toyota Prius and 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid share the same body, safety features and the majority of components, so why the disparity between the tests? 

We asked Toyota.

“The 2012 Prius Plug-in has received a 4-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) while the 2012 Prius carries NHTSA’s 5-star rating,” we were told. 

“The disparity in ratings for what appear to be vehicles with identical unibody structures may be attributed to the additional weight carried by the Plug-in model, and how that weight influenced the methodology of the NHTSA test,” a Toyota spokesman said. 

“The increased mass of the Prius Plug-in model (about 120 lbs.) helps the vehicle carry additional energy into the barriers that are part of NHTSA tests. Importantly, all of the occupant seating positions of the Plug-in model receive the same safety ratings as the regular Prius model,” he added.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to release its own safety ratings for the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, although we would expect it to in the near future.


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Comments (7)
  1. Its interesting the lighter car got the higher rating, must be a blow to all those who have touted that bigger and heavier is safer.

  2. I'm a big supporter of lighter and therefore more efficient cars but heavier is safer when crashing into another car. That's just physics. These head-on crash tests only mimic a car crashing into an anchored object like a utility pole. To mimic crashing into a typical car the barrier should be 3000 lbs and needs to be on tracks.

    The plug in prius should be slightly safer in my opinion.

  3. You can't ignore or eliminate physics from the equation. All things otherwise being equal, if a 1000 lb. car runs into a 2000 lb. car, the lighter vehicle will sustain the most damage.

    That disproportionate collision obviously doesn't enter into the equation if the vehicles smash into a brick wall. If both cars are the same except for the added weight, it is only logical that the heavier car is going to sustain greater damage.

  4. bigger and heavier is only bad if you keep run into a tree or a concrete wall...

  5. This only proves the frontal crash test is "flawed" b/c the test ONLY simulates the crash against a barrier, not a moving vehicle.

    @ Don Gatewood,

    Let me give you a physics lesson so you can understand why the weight plays a big role and why your statement is flawed.

    1. Frontal barrier crash test only shows when a moving vehicle runs into a "fixed" barrier where the barrier won't move. So the crash vehicle has to absorb all of its energy. The higher the weight, the more energy it has to absorb.
    2. But in the real world crash where a "heavier" vehicle against a "lighter" vehicle, the result will be FAR different. The lighter vehicle will have to absorb the heavier vehicle's weight b/c the energy of a heavier vehicle is much higher.

  6. Thank you to all for their wealth of knowledge but I am well aware of the physics. My original comment related to the lower safety of the heavier car in the confines of the test or in like circumstances in the field not between dissimilar vehicles.Its easy to take out of context for your own end.

  7. How will Toyota face the competition when the Volt and the Leaf got 5 stars?

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