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Camry ‘poor’ in key crash testing

Toyota’s mid-size Camry had the lowest rating in a test of severe front-end collisions, an auto safety group said.

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Toyota’s mid-size Camry had the lowest rating in a test of severe front-end collisions, an auto safety group said.

WASHINGTON — Toyota’s Camry, the best-selling mid-size car in the United States, and its Prius V hybrid earned the lowest ratings in a new crash test simulating a severe front-end collision, an insurance group found.

The two Toyotas had the only ‘‘poor’’ scores on an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety test intended to evaluate a crash in which the front corner of a vehicle collides with another car or hits a tree or pole. It is more stringent than the US government’s test, which simulates a collision in which two vehicles or objects hit head-on.

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‘‘Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors,’’ Adrian Lund, the insurance group’s president, said in a statement.

The insurance-industry funded group, in Arlington, Va., said it introduced its so-called small-overlap test this year because that type of crash accounts for nearly a fourth of frontal crashes that seriously hurt or kill people in front seats.

‘‘With this new test, the institute has raised the bar again and we will respond to the challenge,’’ Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Test results showed mid-size cars such as Honda’s Accord and Suzuki’s Kizashi that had ‘‘good’’ ratings performed better than most comparable luxury models.

The insurance group released scores for mid-size luxury cars in August, finding most of the 11 models scored ‘‘marginal’’ or ‘‘poor’’ in the new test.

‘‘It’s remarkable that this group of mid-size family cars did so much better than the mid-size luxury car group,’’ Lund said. ‘‘The difference is stunning. Thirteen of these mid-size cars offer better crash protection than all but three of their luxury counterparts, and at a price that’s easier on the wallet.’’

The insurance institute gives automakers advance notice of its tests, which can affect consumers’ purchase decisions, so they can design cars to pass them. Honda, which redesigned the Accord for 2013, this week earned praise for its top-selling vehicle from Consumer Reports magazine.

Of the 18 mid-size cars tested by the insurance institute, 11 earned ‘‘acceptable’’ ratings and two were rated ‘‘marginal,’’ in additional to the two with ‘‘good’’ scores and the two Toyotas dubbed ‘‘poor.’’

The insurance group’s test is ‘‘the first in the world to address the risk of severe offset crashes,’’ Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which performs the government’s crash tests, said in an e-mail.

The Camry and Prius V hybrid wagon were IIHS top safety picks in crash tests before this year. In those two cars, the only Toyotas to undergo the new test, structural components intruded into front-seat space where a driver would sit, the group said.

In the Camry, the crash shoved the front wheel into the footwell, bent the windshield pillar and pushed the parking brake pedal and left outer edge of the instrument panel back far enough to crush the driver’s body parts, the insurance group said. It said there was ‘‘significant’’ intrusion in the Prius V test coupled with ‘‘high forces’’ measured in a crash test dummy’s legs and feet.

Those cars’ air bags deployed too late or not in locations to protect drivers, the test found.

Honda credited a vehicle frame that it has used for a decade and is designed to disperse crash energy for its success on the new test.

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