The 2023 Honda Accord is the car you want to be in if you’re riding in the back seat during a fender-bender, say experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Accord outperformed other midsize cars in the updated “moderate overlap front crash test” and earned itself earning a rare “good” rating in the new, challenging evaluation focused on rear-seat protection.
“Submarining” to be avoided in rear seats, says IIHS
“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 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.”
Among the other six midsize cars tested, the Subaru Outback earns an “acceptable” rating, with Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry rated “marginal.”
The Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5 and Volkswagen Jetta are rated poor.
New research shows the front is now safer than the back – but not for the reasons you’d think.
IIHS launched the updated moderate overlap front test last year after research showed that in newer vehicles the risk of a fatal injury is now higher for belted occupants in the rear than for those in front.
This is not because the rear seat has become less safe, though. Fronts have become safer because of improved airbags and advanced seat belts that are rarely available in back.
Rear seats are still the safest place for a child.
Even with these developments, the back seat remains the safest place for young children, who can be injured by an inflating front airbag.
To encourage manufacturers to improve rear-seat protection, the updated test adds a dummy in the back seat behind the driver. The driver dummy is the size of an average adult man. The rear dummy is the size of a small woman or 12-year-old child. IIHS researchers also developed new metrics that focus on the injuries most frequently seen in back-seat passengers.
For a vehicle to earn 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. The dummy should remain correctly positioned during the crash without submarining.
The head should also remain a safe distance from the front seatback and the rest of the vehicle interior, and the shoulder belt should remain on the shoulder, where it is most effective. A pressure sensor on the rear dummy’s torso is used to check the shoulder belt position during the crash.
As in the original test, the structure of the occupant compartment must maintain adequate survival space for the driver, and measurements taken from the driver dummy shouldn’t show an excessive risk of injuries.
All seven midsize cars provided good protection in the front seat. However, measurements indicated a slightly higher risk of injuries to the right leg or foot of the driver in the good-rated Accord.
The Accord provided a high degree of protection in the back seat. Measurements taken from the rear dummy showed no heightened risk of injuries, and the rear restraints did a good job controlling the dummy’s motion.
In contrast, submarining was a problem for the poor-rated K5 and Sonata, while in the Jetta the rear passenger’s head came too close to the front seatback. In all three poor-rated cars, measurements taken from the rear dummy indicated likely injuries to the head or neck and chest and excessive belt forces. In the K5 and Sonata, the rear shoulder belt also moved off the shoulder toward the neck.
Here is a table showing results of these crash tests, and each vehicle’s ranking.