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.