Ford and Nissan are celebrating the results of the latest round of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing--but rival Toyota won't be quite so joyful.

The 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Nissan Altima have earned a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, a new level above the previous Top Safety Pick standard.

It's awarded to vehicles which take into account a new small overlap crash test, which involves a 25 percent overlap into a rigid crash barrier.

The test is designed to account for accidents where the primary crash protection structures are missed, instead putting much of the impact directly through the front fender and wheel well area.

The expectation is that accidents such as these cause greater footwell intrusion, with risk of wheels and suspension components being forced backwards--and extra points are given to vehicles which still offer good protection.

Small offset crashes are said to account for nearly a quarter of frontal accidents resulting in serious or fatal injury to driver or passenger.

'Poor' results for Toyota

While the Fusion and Altima picked up the "+" symbol for an acceptable performance (and the Honda Accord and Suzuki Kizashi picked up the top, "good" rating), two of Toyota's models fared poorly.

While both the Toyota Camry (and hybrid, by extension) and Toyota Prius V wagon both pick up an IIHS Top Safety Pick award, both scored poorly in the small overlap testing.

In the Camry, the accident forced a wheel back into the footwell, bent the windshield pillar, and pushed out the parking brake pedal. It also shifted the steering column to a point where the dummy's head made only minimal contact. The side curtain airbag wasn't large enough to prevent the dummy's head from hitting the pushed-forward instrument panel.

The Prius V fared badly too, with "significant intrusion" into the footwell and high forces on the dummy's legs and feet. Worse still, the side curtain airbag fired too late to offer protection.

Adrian Lund, IIHS president, said "Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors."

In contrast to both Toyotas, which receive Top Safety Pick ratings but not "+" ratings, the Suzuki Kizashi remains the odd one out--scoring very well in the small overlap tests, but missing out on a regular Top Safety Pick due to only acceptable rollover performance.

You can find more details on the latest round of crash testing on the IIHS website.


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