New Toyota RAV4 does poorly in crash test

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 earns a Poor rating in the tough small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The RAV4 scores well in the other, long-running tests required to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation, but these results are a disappointment for a redesigned model.

Thus far, only the 2014 Subaru Forester has earned top marks for front, side, rear, rollover, and small offset tests. Further, the Forester has performed exceptionally in Consumer Reports' tests. (Read our Subaru Forester road test.)

And only the Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport small SUVs earn the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award for receiving a Good and Acceptable score, respectively, in the new small overlap test. Other key competitors, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, have also performed better in IIHS tests than the RAV4.

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The small overlap test was done on RAV4 models built after April 2013 to incorporate improvements made to the stability of the steering column and to the padding under the footwell carpeting. In the test, the driver's space was seriously compromised with high injuries to the left lower leg from crushed and buckled sheet metal. The seat belt also allowed excessive movement forward resulting in the dummy's head hitting the instrument panel. In addition, the dummy's head wasn't cushioned by the air bag; instead it moved left as the steering column moved right.

For the small overlap test, vehicles careen into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph, replicating the impact with a tree or pole. The simulated crash involves just 25 percent of the width of the vehicle, concentrating the force on the driver-side front corner. (To learn more about crash tests, read our primer "Crash test 101.")

"This is a challenging test," says Institute President Adrian Lund. "Most manufacturers are going to need to make significant changes to their vehicles in order to improve protection in these kinds of serious frontal crashes."

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