Last post on Dec 23, 2012 at 6:37 PM
You are in the Chevrolet Cobalt
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Chevrolet Cobalt, Coupe, Sedan
#901 of 2240 Only Two Small Cars Passed the IIHS.org side impact tests
Mar 09, 2005 (1:50 pm)
The Insurance Institute's test involves crashing a pickup truck or SUV height vehicle, with contoured front end, into the side of the tested vehicle at 31 mph. This is different from the NHTSA's side impact test, which uses a mid-size passenger car as the impacting vehicle. Since the point of contact with an SUV is higher than that of a car, and since they weigh more, very few vehicles can pass the test regardless of their size (for example, the Honda Element, 2004 CR-V, and Chevrolet Impala fail). Some cars have passed, like the Camry and Accord, but only with curtain airbags (one of the reason the industry is going to voluntary adoption of curtain airbags by 2007) and probably only because they are recent re-designs and were probably anticipating this test. The 2005 CR-V was upgraded to standard side curtain and torso airbags and a reinforced door frame area in response to the failed 2004 test so that it now passes.
Traditionally, side impacts are MUCH harder to deal with that frontal or frontal offset impacts, due to the smaller amount of space in which to absorb the impact and the small amount of material to absorb the impact.
One major issue that is emerging with the IIHS's test, is that the impact in this type of crash is so severe that frames are bending and the passenger safety zone is severely impacted. Nowadays, very few front crashes (NHTSA or IIHS) involve such a severe deformation of the passenger area that serious injuries (crushing) results. In front crashes the main issue nowadays is how to reduce deceleration forces, not how to avoid intrusions into the passenger area.
Not so with side impact crashes. While the NHTSA has passes most cars in their much less severe side impact test, it has also highlighted some cars (Focus ZX3 is one I know about) for poor protection with risk of injury due to intrusion(rear seat in the ZX3). On the other hand, the NHTSA has given some cars up to 5 star ratings (Golf sith side curtain, I believe) which has created a false sense of security which this new, more severe, IIHS test deflates. In fact the IIHS so ups the ante that of the 16 small cars tested, only two barely passed; the rest were poor with life threatening injuries for the occupants. Keep in mind that a small car has a much more severe weight disadvantage in a side impact from a truck/SUV than a mid or full sized car (and not all mid or full sized cars are passing either).
Now, here's the punchline: Toyota Corolla and Cobalt, each with side curtain air bags, both passed, albeit barely (acceptable, not good). I am amazed that a two year old new model (the Corolla) was able to pass and that anything small from GM is able to pass.
Wait, there's more, and this is the part that blows me away: the Ion failed miserably. I don't mean failed due to an unexpected head impact, but due to extreme intrusion and almost collapse of the body structure.
Whoa, what happened? I thought the Cobalt and Ion were both on the same global GM "platform". I thought that the Cobalt and Ion were identical under the skin. But apparently that is not so. I am very grateful I didn't buy an Ion last year. And this year, although the Ion is supposed to be tweaked to be closer to Cobalt quality (body integrity, noise, etc.) it clearly isn't strong were it counts.
Kudos to Chevrolet for spending extra time on the CAD/CAM computers and supercomputers to get the body strength of the Cobalt to such an amazing level. Shame on Chevrolet and Toyota for not making curtain airbags standard on these small cars already. (I expect a little more from GM since they made ABS standard on the Cavalier for years.) I am hoping that GM will make curtain airbags on the Cobalt, Malibu, and Impala standard for the 06 model line, since they have stated their goal is for universal adoption.
I think based on the test results, Chevy needs to promptly discontinue the Ion and rebadge the Cobalt to sell as an Ion. If other people pick up on this IIHS report, sales of small cars are going to plummet - this is the first solid evidence that mid-sized cars are significantly safer than small cars.
I think it would be a great career move for GM to announce, in light of the IIHS test results, that all remaining 05 Cobalts will come with side curtain airbags standard.
One final note. If you read the reviews on some cars, the Camry I believe and the Malibu, you will see that the IIHS notes "running" or mid-year safety upgrades; I belive the Malibu was given additional door padding (some manufacturers believe better door padding is as effective as, or more so, than actual torso airbags).
#902 of 2240 Cobalt vs Ion
Mar 09, 2005 (5:56 pm)
I was sad to see our Ion failed while the Cobalt passed. I guess this won't help Ion sales out much. I am tempted to buy a Cobalt now but I guess at least our Vue gets top rating and thats the vehicle we usually go out with the baby in.
Mar 10, 2005 (6:34 am)
The ION is a decent car with the recent upgrades but the Cobalt is what the Ion should have been. I think with the Aura and SKY, Saturn may be getting back on a better track, but Saturn squandered a great opportunity to increase sales with the average ION.
#904 of 2240 Testing flaws
Mar 10, 2005 (8:30 am)
These tests were very enlightening, but I have one major problem with them. The vehicle being tested is standing still, while the "SUV" is moving perpendicular to it at 31 mph. Most of these types of crashes do not occur when one vehicle is standing still, but when both are moving, and thus the test does not accurately depict real world situations. The forces involved when both vehicles are moving are much different than with one vehicle at rest. I think for this type of a test to properly simulate a real crash that both vehicles need to be moving. The "SUV" moving at 31 mph and hitting the test car moving at 15 mph would be a much more accurate way to test. There's my two cents.
Mar 12, 2005 (8:49 pm)
Nothing is perfect in testing but given the Cobalt has top rated front and is 1 of 2 cars to get an acceptable side impact rating, one has to figure the Cobalt is the safest small car you can buy now and that's nothing to complain about.
Mar 12, 2005 (10:28 pm)
I happen to know that the IIHS went through a lot of developmental work to come up with the final side-impact testing procedure. Their facility is capable of running the type of test you mention -- both cars moving, at different speeds. The results in moving side-struck cars were essentially similar to those that occurred when the cars were stationary, and it's a lot easier to make sure the struck car is in the right place when it's not moving -- hence the rationale for the struck car being stationary.
This actually squares with my experience in inspecting actual crashed vehicles and the resulting injuries. It was almost impossible to tell if the side-struck vehicle was moving at the moment of impact by looking at the car alone. It was the police report and the victims' interviews that told us what had happened.
Mar 13, 2005 (9:39 am)
the USA today test drive isn't such a lovefest.
CR will have a test drive of the cobalt next month. from the profile from the current issue the cobalt doesn't look to be too stellar.
still it will probably be one of the few small cars to be recommended because most don't do well in the crash tests.
#908 of 2240 Sounds good to me?
Mar 13, 2005 (3:32 pm)
"Despite the gripes, Cobalt is an inviting car, assuming you and yours fit. It is satisfying to drive, and the good IIHS safety rating provides peace of mind. You don't feel sentenced to Cobalt for lack of cash to buy something better, but rather that you chose it on purpose.
Much is new, so you might not want to be the first on your block to get one. But based on how it looks and drives, Cobalt is a neat piece of work."
CR LOVES good crash tests. I'm sure it goes a long way for Chevy's chances with getting Cobalt recommended!
#909 of 2240 It's already not recommended
Mar 13, 2005 (9:14 pm)
In the April issue in their lists of all cars rated, it does not have the Cobalt as recommended.
And even with the good crash test scores, it won't get a recommendation until it's been on the market a year to get some idea of reliability.
#910 of 2240 Not On Not Recommended List--Better Read Below if this is Confusing
Mar 14, 2005 (3:41 am)
Your title: "Its already not recommended" may mislead some. The "Not Recommended" may be seen as being cars to avoid. Although Cobalt is not on the recommended list, it is not listed as "Not Recommended."
Sorry to post this, but some may have been misled..