Despite being completely redesigned for 2014, Toyota’s new Corolla still has some catching up to do in terms of safety.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced Thursday that the Corolla earned only a “marginal” rating in the new small overlap front crash test, leaving it trailing numerous competitors.
“Structural performance was poor and the driver's space was seriously compromised by intruding structure,” the independent, nonprofit IIHS said in a statement. “Measures from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left lower leg would be possible in a real-world crash of this severity.”
Because of this marginal rating, the institute said it could not give the Corolla -- one of Toyota’s most popular cars -- its coveted Top Safety Pick Plus designation. Still, strong results in the other crash tests mean the car will retain the Top Safety Pick rating of the earlier Corolla.
In August, the IIHS tested many of the Corolla’s rivals, and gave six of them a Top Safety Pick Plus rating. Those cars were the two-door and four-door 2013 Honda Civic, the 2013 Dodge Dart, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra, the 2014 Ford Focus, and the 2014 Scion tC.
To earn a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, a vehicle must score “Acceptable” or “Good” in the small overlap crash test. The IIHS added the new test in 2012 to give consumers a clear expectation of how safe their new vehicle would be if the front corner of the car hit another vehicle, or a fixed object like a tree or telephone pole.
"With this new test, the Institute has raised the bar again, and we are responding to the challenge," Toyota said in a statement. "We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area."
While Thursday’s news likely won’t have a dramatic impact on sales of the new Corolla, it could cause consumers to look at competing vehicles more closely, when they might not have done so in the past, said Alex Gutierrez, Senior Analyst at kbb.com
“I don’t expect to see Toyota sales to fall off a cliff,” Gutierrez said. “But they might see a few of their competitors close the gap.”
Despite the outgoing Corolla facing a group of rapidly improving competitors, the older 2013 model remained a powerful seller in the compact segment. Only the Honda Civic has outsold the Corolla through September of this year.
Why Toyota wouldn’t have engineered the new Corolla to pass such a test may have been an issue with timing, Gutierrez said. Given how long vehicles take to develop, it’s possible this Toyota could have been too far along when the new IIHS test was introduced.
Highway 1 will have a review of the all-new 2014 Corolla in the coming weeks, when we compare it to the also-new Mazda 3. The Mazda has yet to be crash tested by the IIHS.
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