The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports "not stellar" results for the latest group of vehicles to undergo a new "small overlap frontal crash" test.
The test sees how well a vehicle protects an occupant in a situation where just a part of the front of the car hits something. One example would be two vehicles approaching each other, and one strays a little bit over the center line, causing an offset accident.
The Institute tested 13 small SUVs and only one, the 2014 Subaru Forester, got a "good" rating on the test. "Good" is the highest rating on the Institute's crash tests.
One vehicle got an "acceptable" rating - the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The rest got "marginal" or "poor" ratings.
Joe Nolan of IIHS says engineers need to change the design of the cars, "to force the front end of the vehicle to absorb some of the crash energy and help deflect the vehicle away from whatever it's hitting," as well as reinforce the safety cage protecting the occupants.
Nolan says right now, in some vehicles, the only thing absorbing the energy of a small overlap frontal crash is the wheel and the suspension.
IIHS previously ran a group of midsize luxury cars through the new test. Many did poorly. Mainstream midsize vehicles did better, with several getting a "good" rating.
IIHS is phasing in the new test. By next year, a vehicle will not be able to earn the Institute's coveted "top safety pick" award unless it gets a "good" rating on the new test along with other kinds of crash tests performed.