WASHINGTON (AP) – The 2004 Suzuki Verona was the only vehicle among six midsize cars to get less than the top rating in high-speed crash tests conducted by the insurance industry.

The Acura TL and TSX, the Nissan Maxima, the Chevrolet Malibu and the Mitsubishi Galant all received good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Verona scored acceptable.

All of the vehicles tested were new or redesigned for 2004.

The institute, which is funded by insurers, released the results Sunday.

In the tests, the driver’s side of a vehicle is crashed into a barrier at 40 mph. The barrier is designed to simulate a vehicle of similar weight. A good rating means a driver wearing a seat belt would likely avoid injuries.

The Verona was tested twice. In the first test, the air bag did not fully inflate until late in the crash and then it threw the dummy’s head against the door. Suzuki engineers rewired the air bag and it performed properly in the second test.

Suzuki recalled all 2004 Veronas to fix the problem, Suzuki spokeswoman Celeste Speier said. But the Verona still failed to earn the highest rating because the crash test indicated the driver could suffer serious leg injuries, said the institute’s president, Brian O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the Galant, the Maxima and the Malibu all performed better than earlier models.

In 1995, the Galant was one of the worst performers; its front collapsed and the dummy’s head completely missed the air bag, O’Neill said.

In 1999, the Galant earned an acceptable because there was a risk of serious leg injuries. This year, the Galant earned the highest rating.

O’Neill said almost all midsize cars have made significant safety improvements in the past few years. No midsize vehicle now has the institute’s third-worst rating of marginal, O’Neill said, and seven have ratings of good.

Only two midsize vehicles – the Pontiac Grand-Am and the Oldsmobile Alero – have earned the institute’s lowest rating of poor.

The institute buys the vehicles it tests off dealer lots. It tries to test most popular vehicles, particularly after they are newly released or redesigned.



On the Net:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org

AP-ES-03-21-04 0932EST



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