WASHINGTON -- The Toyota Corolla, despite a full redesign for 2014, failed to fare well enough on a tough, new crash test to receive honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the group said today.
The overhauled compact Corolla received a "marginal" score on the IIHS's small overlap test, which simulates a 40 mph crash where the driver-side corner of a car strikes an object like a utility pole, tree, or oncoming car.
The insurance group launched the test in part because 25 percent of highway deaths caused by head-on collisions result from small overlap crashes.
The Corolla, as a result, will not qualify for any IIHS honors in 2014, when an "acceptable" or "good" score on the small overlap test will become a prerequisite for either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ honors.
It is another blow for Toyota, which has struggled with the small overlap test since its introduction last year. America's top-selling car, the Toyota Camry sedan, received a "poor" rating on the test for 2013, as did the Prius V hybrid and RAV4 crossover.
Toyota has defended its safety reputation by noting that it has 21 cars with Top Safety Pick honors for 2013, more than any other automaker. Those ratings are based on traditional frontal, side and rollover crashes.
However, since the IIHS has changed its criteria, most Toyota models will lose Top Safety Pick honors in 2014 unless they are bolstered against small overlap crashes.
In a statement today, Toyota said it is working to make its cars safer, but also questioned whether the IIHS test is realistic.
"When all-new crash tests are introduced by the [IIHS], we need to be confident that the changes needed to accommodate the tests will enhance overall safety in real world crashes," Toyota spokesman John Hanson said.
"Toyota is committed to responding to this challenge as stridently as it has in the past, when met with more demanding and evolving vehicle performance criteria," Hanson said.
Toyota appeared to have turned a corner in August when the redesigned Scion tC received the second-highest rating -- "acceptable." But the Corolla's weaker rating suggests Toyota is still figuring out how to strengthen its cars.
The IIHS said the crash test results exposed several potential dangers with the car.
The corner of the car crumpled into the driver's space, raising the chance of lower-leg injuries. The dummy's head rolled to the left, off of the airbag, which can cause a head injury if a real driver's head strikes the A-pillar or dashboard.
The good news for Toyota, the group said, was that the side curtain airbag in the Corolla deployed and provided enough protection to the dummy's head.