UPDATED: 4/8/14 11:00 am ET -- corrects award designation
Editor's note: An earlier version of this report misstated the award received by the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. They received the top safety pick+ award.
DETROIT -- Only the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain survived the challenging new small-overlap crash test for mid-sized SUVs from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with a "good" rating.
The Equinox, Terrain and Toyota Highlander earned a top safety pick+ award in the test. But the Highlander received an “average” rating from the group.
Introduced in 2012, the small-overlap test re-creates conditions in which the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or object. During the test, the front quarter of the driver side of the vehicle collides with a barrier at 40 mph.
The test differs from a head-on collision because the front-end crush zone is bypassed, which can result in the passenger compartment collapsing.
The results were good news for General Motors, which is battling a safety image crisis because of several lawsuits and investigations stemming from the recall of 2.6 million smaller cars for faulty ignition switches. The failed switches have been linked to 13 deaths.
“When it comes to mid-sized SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward,” David Zuby, IIHS vice president, said in a statement. “The Equinox and Terrain score well in all components of the small overlap test -- structure, restraints and kinematics, and injury measures for four body regions.”
The IIHS said that the Equinox and Terrain were able to outperform the other SUVs tested because of modifications on 2014 models to the front structure and door-hinge pillars. In the Equinox, the crash test dummy’s movement was controlled and the airbags worked as expected.
The worst-performing mid-sized SUV was the Honda Pilot, in which the driver’s space was “seriously compromised by intruding structure” during the crash. In the worst impact, the parking brake moved 16.5 inches inward, the steering column shifted 5.2 inches to the right and the dummy suffered injuries to the left hip, knee and lower leg.
Also receiving a poor rating was the Mazda CX-9, which had its hinge pillar intrude 17 inches, bringing the left driver-side wheel even with the dummy’s knee. The door frame was so damaged in the crash that the dummy’s head struck it after impacting the front airbag.
The Ford Explorer had its door hinge pillar nearly severed from the door sill in the impact, which led to a moderate overall rating from the group, but a poor structure rating. The Kia Sorento earned a poor overall rating due to poor structure and lower leg and foot scores.