The 2014 Subaru Forester was the only one of 13 compact crossovers and S.U.V.'s to earn the highest rating in a new, more severe front crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The new Forester was rated Good, and the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received the next-highest rating, Acceptable.
The insurance institute, which is financed by the insurance industry, began conducting the new test, called the small overlap test, in 2012. The results are rated on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. Vehicles are rated separately for their structure, for how well the driver dummy is restrained and for potential injuries to the dummy. Those are combined into the overall rating.
Moreover, the redesigned Forester was the first vehicle of 47 tested to date to receive Good ratings in all of those categories.
"It's what we envisioned when we were first developing this test," said Joe Nolan, the institute's vice president for vehicle research. "They addressed the issues of structure. They addressed the issues of keeping the occupant engaged with the frontal air bag; keeping the steering wheel in front of the driver; deploying the side curtain air bag. All of those things, when they work together, they work very well."
Receiving an overall rating of Marginal were the BMW X1, Honda CR-V, two-door Jeep Wrangler, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Receiving the lowest rating, Poor, were the Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Patriot and Kia Sportage.
Conspicuously absent from the latest tested group was the Toyota RAV4, which will not be tested until later this year. In a press release, the institute noted that Toyota had "asked for the delay" so it could make changes "to improve" the RAV4's test performance.
The new small overlap test is intended to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle, or with an object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of the car's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour.
Because the impact is to the car's outer edge, it misses the main crush-zone structures that reduce crash forces to the passenger compartment, increasing the risk of severe damage to the structure that surrounds the occupants.
In these impacts, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways. This movement can fling the dummy toward the windshield and front door pillar. And it can push the steering wheel, which contains an air bag, so far to the right that the dummy can fall into a gap between the steering wheel air bag and the side-curtain air bag that is meant to protect the head.
In the Jeep Patriot, for example, the steering wheel moved up eight inches and to the right almost six inches, causing the dummy's head to slide off the front air bag. And the side curtain air bag did not deploy.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.