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New crash tests for small pickup trucks raise the question of whether smaller pickups are falling short when it comes to safety.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put eight small pickups through the small overlap front crash test, which replicates one of the most common and deadly accidents where the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or a pole at 40 miles per hour.
Half of the trucks tested by IIHS received the highest overall rating possible of "good." Another two were deemed "acceptable," and two were given the designation of "marginal," which is one notch above the lowest possible score of "poor."
"You are probably better off in a big pickup than a small one," said David Zuby, the Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer. "Larger pickups would be safer mainly because they are bigger and potentially offer more protection in a crash."
One area in particular showed troubling results. When engineers measured how the lower leg and foot of crash test dummies handled the crash, the injuries were extensive enough to merit a "poor" score in that category for four trucks. Two of those models, the Nissan Frontier King Cab and the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, were the only trucks given an overall rating of "marginal" by the Insurance Institute. Zuby said the Frontier has not had a structural redesign since the 2005 model year.
Nissan's statement: "The 2017 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab has earned a four-star NCAP overall safety rating from NHTSA, and achieved 'Good' ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, and roof strength tests."
Separately, the IIHS criticized all the small pickups for having "poor" headlights and not having automatic emergency braking systems.
"The lack of automatic emergency braking is disappointing, though it's worth noting the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are offered with forward collision warning," said Zuby. For the 2017 model year, half of all new vehicles are sold with the option of automatic emergency brakes.
Small pickups have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, driven in part by General Motors rolling out the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Both trucks have seen sales climb as more Americans look to buy pickup trucks. Since full-size pickups are often viewed as too big or too expensive by some potential buyers, small pickups have become a more favorable option.