A structural upgrade to improve small overlap protection and the addition of an optional front crash prevention system led the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta earning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award -- "Top Safety Pick+."
Although the midsize sedan didn't get a full redesign, the A-pillars and door sills were strengthened for the 2015 model year. As a result, the Jetta's small overlap rating improved to good from the marginal rating of earlier models.
In the test, the driver's space was maintained well, and measures taken from the dummy in the driver seat indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of the same severity.
The side airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from striking side structure and outside objects. However, the dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag after hitting it, and the safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward.
Other areas perform well
In addition to the good small overlap rating, the Jetta earns good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness evaluations. An optional forward collision warning system earns the car a basic rating for front crash prevention. When equipped with the system, the Jetta qualifies for the Top Safety Pick+ award.
IIHS introduced the small overlap evaluation in 2012. In the test, which is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the Institute's moderate overlap test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.
To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Top Safety Pick+ winners must meet those same criteria and also earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.