ARLINGTON, Va. — Changes to the structure and airbags of the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic have lifted the small car's rating for small overlap front crash protection from marginal to good. The car now qualifies for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award.
The new rating applies to both sedan and hatchback versions of the Sonic built after February 2015. Chevrolet made modifications to the front-end structure, door sill and door hinge pillar. In addition, the side curtain airbags were lengthened and reprogrammed to deploy earlier in small overlap crashes.
In the latest test, the driver space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the footrest and adjacent footwell. That's less than the 6 inches of intrusion in the lower interior that occurred in the earlier test.
The lower intrusion likely contributed to better injury indicators. Measures taken from the dummy in the earlier test showed that leg injuries would be possible. The new test indicated significant injuries would be unlikely in a crash of this severity.
The dummy's movement in the latest test was well-controlled. The head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.
In contrast, the curtain airbag in the earlier test deployed too late, and the dummy's head ended up between the airbag and the side structure.
The Sonic also has good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must have good ratings in those four tests and a good or acceptable small overlap rating.
The Sonic is available with an optional forward collision warning system that earns a basic rating from IIHS for front crash prevention.