Ranks Adds Bumper Ratings; Tests Mini and Microcar Bumpers
June 16, 2009
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has added bumper ratings to
the areas in which it tests and has found that most of the mini
and microcars it has tested have ranked low in this area. The only
one that has ranked acceptable is the Smart Fortwo.
|The Smart Fortwo is the only mini car that
has achieved a bumper rating of acceptable from the IIHS.
The Institute evaluated results according to a new ratings system
for low-speed tests that represents the damage insurance claims
centers assess daily on low-speed crashes. The worst performer was
the Kia Rio with $9,380 total damage in the four tests, two full-width
and two corner impacts, to earn a poor rating. The Rio's repair
bill was worse than those of most other small and midsize cars and
minivans the Institute has tested. The Rio minicar's damages totaled
$3,700 damage (about 30 percent of its purchase price) in the full-front
test alone. The Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and Mini
Cooper also earn poor ratings for bumper performance (see table
The Smart Fortwo rated best overall, with $3,281 total damage in
four tests. IIHS attributes the relatively low costs to fix the
Fortwo to the fact that its pre-painted plastic body panels are
dent-resistant, inexpensive, and easy to replace. The Chevrolet
Aveo, a minicar, rated next best, with $4,490 total damage.
"You should be able to drive your car home after a low-speed
crash, but too often vehicles are sidelined by only minor impacts,"
says IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan. "Damage to sheet
metal, air-conditioning condensers, and safety equipment like headlights
should never happen when your car is bumped at just 3 to 6 miles
an hour. Bad bumpers add up to one big headache for consumers."
The new bumper test results are based on repair costs averaged and
weighted to reflect real-world damage patterns. These averaged and
weighted repair costs determine each vehicle's overall rating of
good, acceptable, marginal or poor in four bumper tests representing
full-width and corner crashes at low speeds. Weighted average repairs
must be less than $500 for a good rating, less than $1,000 for acceptable,
and less than $1,500 for marginal. Repairs of $1,500 or more earn
bumpers a poor rating.
"Bumpers can be designed so there's no damage in these low-speed
impacts. At a minimum, repairs should cost less than the typical
insurance deductible for a collision, which is $500," Nolan
explains. "This is why we set the benchmark for a good rating
at less than $500. Damage at this level may be only cosmetic, so
consumers may choose not to bother with repairs. Likewise, $1,000
is about the cost of a new bumper cover, reinforcement bar, and
paint, while $1,500 includes replacing vehicle parts like grilles
and headlights. When you reach $1,000 the bumper isn't doing its
job, and anything $1,500 or higher is egregious."
No vehicle can earn a good or even an acceptable rating in the Institute's
bumper tests if it's unsafe to drive afterward or can't be driven
at all. Inoperable headlights or taillights, severely buckled hoods,
or a compromised engine cooling system would prevent any vehicle
from achieving the top two ratings. For instance, the Accent's hood
buckled and its radiator hose kinked in the full-front test.
Besides this group of minicars and a microcar, the Institute has
tested 54 other vehicles under the new ratings protocol. The Smart
Fortwo joins the Ford Focus and Scion xB as the only cars to earn
acceptable ratings. The Aveo is 1 of 15 to rate marginal. Of the
61 cars the Institute has tested so far, 43 rate poor.
Bumper Performance in Low-Speed Crash Tests: Vehicle
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