RALEIGH, N.C. — Mid-sized cars are getting safer, in part due to protection from side airbags, according to a new study released Thursday.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
tested seven mid-sized cars, both moderately priced and luxury. The cars tested were the Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Avenger, Infiniti G35, Kia Optima, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima and Saturn Aura.
All of the vehicles, except for the Kia Optima, earned the top rating for side-crash protection. The ratings are a huge improvement over the last time mid-sized cars were checked. The difference is likely because side airbags are now standard in many vehicles.
All seven cars earned the highest rating for front crashes.
Results in rear-crash tests varied, mainly because of head restraints. Only the Kia Optima earned the top rating of "good" for its seat and head restraint system, which is key for minimizing whiplash injuries. Five vehicles were rated marginal or poor for their seat/head restraint combinations.
David Zuby, the institute's senior vice president, said the side-impact results are a huge change from four years ago.
"In 2004, we tested 10 mid-sized, moderately priced cars, and all 10 were rated poor in their standard configurations without side airbags."
During the 2004 tests, only the previous generations of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu earned good ratings when tested with side airbags, which at that time were optional equipment.