You are probably hoping for a clear-cut answer to a simple question. In the case of the Prius v, it depends on which crash-test results you use as a reference point — even though the conflicting results come from the same organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Prius v, introduced for the 2012 model year, is listed as a Top Safety Pick by IIHS based on a battery of tests that includes front, side and rear crashes and a roof-strength rating. The Prius v received the top score of Good in all these tests.
However, IIHS introduced a more stringent front crash test in 2012, and in that test the Prius v received the lowest rating of Poor because of the amount of intrusion into the passenger compartment and the potential that created for lower-body injuries.
In the older moderate-overlap front test, a vehicle is crashed at 40 mph into a deformable barrier so that 40% of the frontal area hits the barrier. In the new small-overlap front test, the crash is at the same speed but only 25% of the frontal area hits the barrier, which is taller and rigid, resulting in a more severe impact. It is in the newer test that the Prius v performed poorly.
So which test result is more relevant? They're both relevant — for that particular crash. The tougher small-overlap front test shows that the Prius v needs structural changes to reduce injuries from that type of crash. But the other tests show that it protects occupants well in other types of accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government agency that crash-tests vehicles and issues safety ratings, rates the 2013 Prius v with overall five-star rating. It earned four out of five stars in frontal and rollover tests and five out of five stars in side tests. Though crash tests can be good indicators of how safe a vehicle is, the real test comes in how well they perform on public roads, where all kinds of crashes occur under different conditions. Unfortunately, it takes three to four years for meaningful real-world data to become available.
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