Well, that was a quick turnaround. Just seven months after eight of 11 luxury cars blew the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new small-overlap frontal test, all five cars in the latest IIHS small-overlap test scored Acceptable or Good — the top two of four possible scores.
The 2014 Mazda6 sedan, 2013 Honda Civic Coupe and Civic Sedan, 2013 Volvo XC60 SUV and 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedan passed IIHS' most challenging frontal test, which simulates a 40-mph impact with a rigid barrier that overlaps just 25% of the front of a car. All five cars earned IIHS' Top Safety Pick+ ("plus") honor, a rank above Top Safety Pick status.
IIHS said in 2012 that some 10,000 annual highway deaths in the U.S. occur from frontal collisions, and nearly a quarter of those occur because of so-called small overlap situations.
The 2013 MKZ is the first car that documents an automaker's improvement in the same test. In August 2012, its predecessor scored poorly, allowing a belted crash-test dummy to careen toward the A-pillar rather than the front airbag. The redesigned MKZ offered better front-airbag protection, earning the car an Acceptable score. The Mazda6 scored Acceptable, too.Both cars are fresh redesigns, but the 2013 Civic and XC60 were specifically changed in order to do well in the new test; they both earned IIHS' top mark, Good. In a substantial refresh of the Civic just one model year into its ninth generation, Honda revised the body structure of both the coupe and sedan. It's the first compact car to undergo IIHS' small-overlap test, and both versions passed with flying colors.
IIHS says the XC60, meanwhile, received an update to its side-curtain airbag module so it deploys in a small-overlap situation. In August 2012, IIHS' first batch of small-overlap tests revealed that curtain-airbag deployment helps contain occupants' movement inside the vehicle during such a crash. In that test, just six of 11 cars tested deployed their curtains.
The XC60's changes seem software-related rather than structural, so it stands to reason that someone with a 2010-2012 XC60 could visit a dealership for the upgrade. A Volvo spokesman didn't immediately respond to our inquiry.
In December 2012, IIHS put 18 midsize sedans, coupes and hatchbacks through its small-overlap test; 13 scored Acceptable or Good. Thus far, the organization has tested 34 cars in small-overlap tests.