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by Tim Beissmann

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The all-new Toyota Corolla sedan has earned a ‘marginal’ safety rating in a tough new crash test in the US.

The new four-door Corolla – due in Australia in mid 2014 – struggled in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, which is designed to replicate a crash where 25 per cent of the car’s front-end makes contact with a fixed object like a tree or a pole at 64km/h.

The IIHS explained the Corolla’s ‘marginal’ rating – which is one level above the lowest ranking ‘poor’, and below the benchmark ‘good’ and second-ranked ‘acceptable’ – was the result of structural issues with the new small sedan.

 

“Structural performance was poor and the driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure,” the IIHS crash test report reads.

“Measures from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left lower leg would be possible in a real-world crash of this severity.

“The dummy’s head contacted the front airbag but rolled to the left as the steering wheel moved four inches (10cm) to the right. That left the head vulnerable to contact with forward structures like the windshield pillar and dashboard.”

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The IIHS tested 12 top-selling small cars under identical conditions in August. The Honda Civic sedan and coupe were the only models to score ‘good’ ratings, while the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Scion tC also outperformed the Corolla with ‘acceptable’ ratings.

The Corolla’s grading puts it on par with the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic (Holden Cruze and Barina sedan), and the Volkswagen Beetle.

It’s the latest in a series of disappointments for Toyota in the new crash test, following ‘poor’ ratings for the Camry, Prius V and RAV4.

In August, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America CEO Osamu Nagata told Automotive News the brand’s engineers have been revising vehicle designs since last year in the pursuit of improved crash performance.

“As soon as designs are ready and parts are fixed, we’ll have running changes for [those vehicles],” Nagata said. “We will make sure the customer feels safe.”

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The Corolla sedan tested by the IIHS was a US-specification vehicle (above). The version that’s set to go on sale in Australia around the middle of next year is based on the European-spec model, which will be similar, but not identical, to the US car.

ANCAP and Euro NCAP are yet to test the new Corolla sedan. The new-generation hatch and the outgoing sedan have both been awarded five-star ANCAP safety ratings.




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