By Colin Bird on December 5, 2011
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its first batch of 2012 model year ratings this month. Under the stricter guidelines, only three 2012 models — the Chevrolet Camaro, Cadillac CTS and Toyota Camry — have earned five-star composite scores from the safety agency. In fact, as we previously reported, the Camaro is the only vehicle to earn a perfect rating across the board since the new guidelines took effect for the 2011 model year.
NHTSA’s composite scores are composed of five-star ratings for frontal, rollover and a combined side pole and barrier tests. The side pole test, which is new, simulates a 20-mph side-impact crash into a 10-inch-diameter pole or tree at a 75-degree angle just behind the A-pillar on the driver’s side.
The redesigned 2012 Camry earned a five-star overall rating, getting four stars in the frontal test, five stars in the side-crash test and four stars in the rollover test.Besides the Camaro, Camry and CTS, all the other models — including new entries like the 2012 Chrysler 200, Ford Explorer and Ford Focus — received no better than four-star overall scores.
Of the 22 trucks, SUVs, crossovers and passenger cars tested, most received four stars in frontal or rollover tests. Surprisingly, most vehicles — including the 2012 Fiat 500, Kia Sorento and Honda Pilot — conquered the more rigorous side-crash test with a five-star rating.
The 2012 Mazda3 and Chrysler 200 had the worst side-impact rating of the bunch, earning three stars. Some models, such as the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade ESV, had three-star rollover ratings.
NHTSA said it will test 74 vehicles for the 2012 model year, including 42 passenger cars, 22 SUVs/crossovers, eight pickups and two minivans, representing 81% of the 2012 models by sales volume. Only three models have earned five-star ratings for the model year, but there are more than 50 models to go.
Editor's Note: NHTSA has revised its 2012 Fiat 500 rating since publishing. The model now has a 3 star composite score, with a change from 5 star to 2 star in the side-crash test.