WASHINGTON – The 2004 Jaguar X-Type (search) got the worst rating of any midsize sedan in side-impact crash tests conducted by the insurance industry.
The X-Type, which starts at $31,000, fared worse than some less expensive cars, according to test results released Sunday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (search).
The institute's test measures the impact on dummies in the front and back seats of a sedan that is struck in the side by a sport utility vehicle traveling 31 mph. The government's test mimics a side-impact crash involving two cars.
Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer, said the Jaguar's side air bags protected the dummies' heads, but the side of the vehicle was crushed and could have caused severe injuries to the driver's torso.
Both the 2005 Mitsubishi Galant and the 2004 Saab 9-3 earned the institute's highest rating, along with the 2004 Lexus ES 330 and the 2004 Acura TL.
The 2004 Saab 9-5, 2005 Mercedes C class and 2005 Volvo S40 earned the institute's second-highest rating, "acceptable."
The Saab 9-3 and the Toyota RAV4, a small sport utility vehicle, are the only vehicles to earn the institute's best pick designation on both side-impact and front-crash tests, Lund said.
The Mitsubishi Galant's top rating was a significant improvement from 2004, when it was tested without side air bags and got the institute's lowest rating. In 2004, the vehicle had optional side air bags.
The institute does not test vehicles with air bags unless the safety devices are standard. The 2005 Galant has standard air bags that protect the chest and head. Lund said the difference was dramatic.
"Mitsubishi should be commended for making side air bags with head protection standard in this relatively inexpensive car," Lund said. "The results for the Galant show that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get good protection in side-impact crashes.
The starting price for the 2004 Galant was around $18,500.
The institute said all of the cars had head-protecting side air bags, which have been shown to reduce deaths by about 45 percent among drivers who are struck in the driver's side.
Twenty-seven percent of 2004 vehicles offered head-protecting side air bags as standard equipment. An additional 21 percent offered them as an option, the institute said.