Honda Accord is the only midsize sedan to ace the latest IIHS safety test

The new standards for rear passengers proved hard to meet


When it comes to passenger safety in the popular midsize car segment, the Honda Accord rules supreme.

In new crash data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only the Honda Accord earned the highest overall rating of “good” among six midsize sedans when it comes to rear-seat passengers’ safety. 

The IIHS said the Subaru Outback was next safest with an “acceptable” rating, followed by the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, which were rated as “marginal.” The Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, and Volkswagen Jetta were all rated “poor.”

“In most of the midsize cars we tested, the rear dummy slid forward, or ‘submarined,’ beneath the lap belt, causing it to ride up from the pelvis onto the abdomen and increasing the risk of internal injuries,” IIHS President David Harkey said in the report. “In the three poor-rated vehicles, measurements taken from the rear dummy also indicated likely injuries to the head or neck as well as to the chest.”

The new data from the IIHS comes as the safety organization launched a new crash examination called the “moderate overall front crash test.” That measures the impact when the front corners of two vehicles driving in opposite directions collide at 40 mph.

The IIHS found that in those conditions in newer vehicles, the risk of a fatal injury is now higher for rear-seat passengers wearing seatbelts than for those in front. Furthermore the IIHS now uses a crash test dummy the size of a small woman or a 12-year-old child in the rear seats, which more accurately represents the average profile of passengers.

The IIHS said in order to get a good rating, there can’t be an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, or thigh, as recorded by the second-row dummy, and it should be “correctly positioned” during the crash without submarining. In the Accord, IIHS data showed “no heightened risk of injuries, and the rear restraints did a good job controlling the dummy’s motion.”

In both the marginal-rated Altima and Camry, the IIHS noted that the rear dummy submarined beneath the lap belt, and the shoulder belt moved off the shoulder toward the dummy’s neck. In the poor-rated Sonata, K5, and Jetta, measurements taken from the rear dummy indicated likely injuries to the head or neck and chest — and excessive belt forces, IIHS said. In the K5 and Sonata, the rear shoulder belt also moved off the shoulder toward the neck.

The Accord, which is all new for 2023, priced starting at just under $27,300, is slightly more expensive than all of its competitors except the Subaru Outback ($28,895), which is bigger and, in fact, almost like an SUV. 

The midsize sedan market in the U.S. and globally has been shrinking, as buyers favor crossovers like the Outback and other smaller SUVs. Last year global SUV sales climbed 2.3% to a record 32.8 million sold, notching a market share of 41.3% of all vehicles. In the U.S., SUV sales accounted for 54% of all light vehicles sold.

Safety advocates also warn that the rising numbers of SUVs and crossovers, which generally have a bigger footprint and weigh more, are more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Another study published in the Journal of Safety Research found that while SUVs and trucks accounted for just 26.1% of pedestrian and cyclist collisions, those collisions resulted in 44.1% of all fatalities.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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