In the latest round of safety assessments, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has unveiled concerning findings about rear-seat safety in midsize cars. The updated moderate overlap front crash test has revealed significant disparities among vehicles, highlighting the need for enhanced rear-seat protection.

In a notable victory, the Honda Accord has emerged as the leader among its peers, securing an exceptional rating in the demanding evaluation centered on rear-seat safety. However, the majority of midsize cars tested struggled to meet the IIHS's stringent safety criteria. Among the six remaining vehicles assessed, the Subaru Outback garnered an acceptable rating, indicating moderate success in rear-seat protection. Meanwhile, the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry merited marginal ratings, signaling room for improvement. On the lower end of the spectrum, the Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, and Volkswagen Jetta received poor ratings, indicative of notable deficiencies in their rear-seat safety provisions.

A recurring issue identified during testing was the "submarining" of the rear dummy, where it slid forward beneath the lap belt, thereby increasing the risk of internal injuries. This phenomenon was particularly pronounced in vehicles that received poor ratings. Notably, the measurements derived from the rear dummy indicated potential injuries to the head, neck, and chest in poorly rated vehicles.

The updated moderate overlap front test was initiated last year based on research that illuminated a higher risk of fatal injuries for belted occupants in the rear seats compared to those in the front. The motivation behind this shift was to encourage manufacturers to prioritize rear-seat safety improvements. A significant aspect of this updated evaluation involves placing a dummy in the back seat behind the driver. The rear dummy's metrics concentrate on injuries commonly observed in back-seat passengers.

To secure a good rating, vehicles must demonstrate minimal risks of injury to the head, neck, chest, and thigh of the rear dummy. Correct positioning without submarining is essential, along with maintaining a safe distance between the dummy's head and the interior components. Shoulder belt retention on the shoulder is also crucial, as assessed by a pressure sensor on the dummy's torso.

Ratings in updated moderate overlap front test: midsize cars

      Driver injury measures   Rear passenger injury measures  
Vehicle Overall rating Structure & safety cage Head & neck Chest Knee & thigh Leg & foot Driver restraints & kinematics Head & neck Chest Thigh Rear passenger restraints & kinematics
2023 Honda Accord G (Good) G G G G A G G G G G
2023 Subaru Outback A (Acceptable) G G G G G G G G G P
2023 Nissan Altima M (Marginal) G G G G G G A M G P
2023 Toyota Camry M G G G G G G G M G P
2023 Hyundai Sonata P (Poor) G G G G G G P P G P
2023 Kia K5 P G G G G G G P P G P
2023 Volkswagen Jetta P G G G G G G P P G A

In June this year, the IIHS tested five small crew cab pickups. All five models struggled in the agency's updated moderate overlap front evaluation with a focus on rear-seat safety and none of them received the top score of Good. Just about a month ago, the same happened with a selection of five small cars, which were also put through the updated safety test.

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