Expensive Bumper Repair: Latest Crash Tests

Consumers' Research Magazine, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Expensive Bumper Repair: Latest Crash Tests


Seven new cars and five SUVs, all 2000 and 2001 models, turned in varying performances in five mph crash tests to assess how well their bumpers prevent costly damage in parking lot-type impacts. Six of the seven cars the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested are updates of models that were previously tested. All but one of the SUVs were subject to the low-speed crash tests for the first time.

A look at the Cars. Among the six updated models, only the Hyundai Elantra and Lexus LS 430 improved compared with previous models of the same cars. The Honda Civic, Dodge Stratus, and Dodge Grand Caravan failed to improve, while the new Ford Focus performed worse than its predecessor model, the Escort. The seventh car, Mercedes' C 320 model, hadn't been previously tested. Each car was tested in a series of four front and rear impacts at five mph--front- and rear-into-fiat-barrier plus front-into-angle-barrier and rear-into-pole.

Hundai Improves, Dramatically. The only car to turn in a good performance, sustaining less than $1,000 total damage in the latest round of Institute bumper tests, is the Hyundai Elantra. This is the third time this car has been tested, and each time after the first test it improved. After a 1997 Elantra sustained more than $3,100 damage in the series of four low-speed crash tests, including about $2,000 damage in two rear impacts, Hyundai redesigned the rear bumpers. The result was damage reduction in the rear-into-pole test from $1,709 (1997 model) to only $8 (1999 model). Overall damage in all four tests was cut by almost half, from $3,131 to $1,714.

Hyundai improved the front bumper for the 2001 model year. Foam has been added to absorb the energy of low-speed impacts, and the bumper reinforcement bar, which formerly was plastic, now is made of steel. Virtually no weight increase is associated with these changes, but the damage reduction is dramatic--from $534 in repair costs for the 1999 model to $247 for the 2001 model in the front-into-fiat-barrier test and from $1,131 (1999) to $407 (2001) in the front-into-angle-barrier test. Overall damage again was reduced by half, from $1,714 repair costs to $839.

"This is excellent, exactly what automakers should be doing," the Institute's chief operating officer Adrian Lund points out. "Hyundai is designing its bumpers to prevent damage and reduce repair costs after low-speed impacts like the ones that occur so often in commuter traffic and parking lots. The result is that the new Elantra is one of the best low-speed performers among the cars we've tested."

Lexus Improves, Ford Doesn't. Lexus also improved the bumpers on the new LS 430 model compared with the predecessor model, the LS 400. Total damage in the Institute's four tests still tops $2,700, but this is more than $1,000 better than for the 1998 LS 400.

In contrast, repair costs are higher for the new Ford Focus compared with the 1997 Ford Escort--$2,614 damage in all four impacts compared with $1,893 for the Escort. "The result for the Focus is particularly disappointing for two reasons," Lund says. "One is that the Focus is a brand new design, so Ford had every opportunity to design the bumpers to do a better job of reducing damage. The other reason is that the predecessor model, the Escort, had an illustrious early history of bumper performance. The 1981 model sustained $0 damage in the same four tests at five mph, the only car to do so. We would have preferred for Ford to go back to this performance level for the bumpers on the Focus instead of equipping the new model with even flimsier bumpers than those on the recent model Escorts it replaces."

Five MPH Crash Test Results

                               Front      Rear      Front Into
                               into       into        Angle
                              Barrier    Barrier     Barrier
Updates:

Hyundai Elantra, small car
2001 model                      $247        $0          $407
1999 model                      $534       $41        $1,131
1997 model                      $272      $401          $749
Ford Focus, small car
2000 model                       $31    $1,137          $507
1997 Escort model               $267      $172          $805
Honda Civic, small car
2001 model                      $403      $447          $404
1997 model                       $60      $104          $895
Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus, midsive, inexpensive car
2001 Stratus model              $278      $174          $626
1995 Cirrus model               $403      $708          $288
Lexus LS 430, large luxury car
2001 LS 430 model                $75      $395        $1,526
1998 LS 400 model               $708      $418        $2,154
Dodge Grand Caravan, passenger van
2001 model                      $329      $822          $703
1996 model                      $904      $406        $1,248
Isuzu Rodeo, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                    $1,769      $924        $1,932
1996 model                    $1,207    $2,433        $2,101
Mitsubishi Montero, midsize sport utility vehicle
2001 model                    $1,210    $2,495        $2,525
1996 model                      $539    $2,656        $1,915

Not Previously Tested:

Mercedes C 320, midsize luxury car
2001 model                      $463      $958          $658
BMW X5, midsize sport utility vehicle
2001 model                      $794      $254          $949
Nissan Xterra, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                      $577      $884        $1,994
Isuzu Trooper, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                    $2,890    $2,618        $2,333

                               Rear                 Average
                               Into       Total      Damage
                               Pole       Damage    per Test

Updates:

Hyundai Elantra, small car
2001 model                      $185      $839          $210
1999 model                        $8    $1,714          $429
1997 model                    $1,709    $3,131          $783
Ford Focus, small car
2000 model                      $939    $2,614          $654
1997 Escort model               $649    $1,893          $473
Honda Civic, small car
2001 model                      $227    $1,481          $370
1997 model                      $511    $1,570          $393
Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus, midsive, inexpensive car
2001 Stratus model            $1,473    $2,551          $638
1995 Cirrus model             $1,554    $2,953          $738
Lexus LS 430, large luxury car
2001 LS 430 model               $765    $2,761          $690
1998 LS 400 model               $523    $3,803          $951
Dodge Grand Caravan, passenger van
2001 model                    $2,268    $4,122        $1,031
1996 model                    $1,998    $4,556        $1,139
Isuzu Rodeo, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                      $552    $5,177        $1,294
1996 model                    $2,375    $8,116        $2,029
Mitsubishi Montero, midsize sport utility vehicle
2001 model                    $2,831    $9,061        $2,265
1996 model                    $1,259    $6,369        $1,592

Not Previously Tested:

Mercedes C 320, midsize luxury car
2001 model                    $2,369    $4,448        $1,112
BMW X5, midsize sport utility vehicle
2001 model                      $190    $2,187          $547
Nissan Xterra, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                    $3,317   $11,158        $2,790
Isuzu Trooper, midsize sport utility vehicle
2000 model                      $991    $4,446        $1,112

Repair costs reflect December 2000 prices. … 

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