Bumper Performance Improves on Four of Six Midsize Sedans, IIHS Reports
August 6, 2009

Bumpers on 2009 models of the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, and Nissan Maxima performed better than their 2007 predecessors in low-speed crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), according to a study released by the institute this week. Bumpers on the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu and 2010 Ford Fusion, however, did worse than earlier models.

None of the six midsize sedans earns the top rating of good in a recent series of tests designed to assess and compare how well bumpers resist damage in everyday fender-benders, according to IIHS. The Mazda 6 improved to acceptable from marginal, with an average repair cost of less than $900 after four tests at 3 and 6 mph. The Accord and Sonata improved to marginal from poor. The Fusion slipped to poor from marginal, and the Maxima and Malibu remained poor, IIHS reports.

"Consumers buy midsize cars for practical reasons. There's nothing practical about a $1,000-plus repair bill after a minor bump in commuter traffic," says Joe Nolan, Institute senior vice president.

This is the second group of vehicles the Institute has evaluated under a new bumper ratings protocol based on repair costs averaged and weighted to reflect real-world damage patterns and insurance claims frequency (CLICK HERE for related story).

The Institute rates bumpers good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in four tests-front and rear full-width impacts at 6 mph and front and rear corner impacts at 3 mph. Each vehicle is run into a steel barrier designed to mimic the design of a car bumper, with the barrier's plastic absorber and flexible cover simulating typical cars' energy absorbers and plastic bumper covers. These tests are designed to drive bumper improvements that lead to better damage resistance in a range of real-world crashes.

"Although midsize car bumpers still allow way too much damage in minor impacts, it's encouraging that some manufacturers are designing better ones," Nolan adds. He points out that the front and rear bumpers of the 2009 Mazda 6 are wider, taller and higher off the ground than the 2007 model. The Mazda 6 is only the fourth car tested under the new protocol to earn an acceptable rating for its bumpers. The others are the Ford Focus, Scion xB, and Smart Fortwo.

"Mazda is trying to protect buyers' pocketbooks while many other carmakers are letting them take a big hit in low-speed crashes," Nolan says.

Mazda, Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai improved the bumpers on their 2009 midsize cars so the bumpers would better resist front underride, which exacerbates collision damage. Bumpers have to be tall enough to engage, and to stay engaged, with the bumpers on other vehicles in collisions, even during emergency braking, or they'll bypass each other when the vehicles collide, according to IIHS.

Midsize Car Ratings and Repair Costs for Bumper Performance

Rating Front Full Front Corner Rear Full Rear Corner Weighted Average
Mazda 6
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Nissan Maxima
Ford Fusion
Chevrolet Malibu

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