ARLINGTON, Va. — Bumpers that don't bump, resulting in costly damage in what should be minor crashes, are the norm for cars evaluated in Institute low-speed crash tests. One exception is the redesigned 2010 Subaru Legacy. The Legacy's bumpers are a big improvement over those on its 2007-09 predecessor. The new Legacy earns an acceptable rating in a recent series of tests to assess and compare how well bumpers resist damage in everyday fender-benders. In contrast, the previous Legacy is rated poor. Fifteen of 17 midsize cars evaluated by the Institute are rated marginal or poor for bumper protection.
"The Legacy's performance shows what automakers can do when they pay attention to damage prevention in the low-speed crashes that happen every day," says Institute senior vice president Joe Nolan.
The Legacy is only the fifth car the Institute has tested to earn an acceptable rating for its bumpers. The others are the Ford Focus, Mazda 6, Scion xB, and Smart Fortwo. No car has yet earned a good rating. The Legacy is the first car the Institute has tested to limit damage to the bumper system in all 4 tests, and it's the first car with all 4 damage estimates under $1,000.
The Institute rates bumpers good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in 4 tests — front and rear full-width impacts at 6 mph and front and rear corner impacts at 3 mph. Each vehicle is run into a steel barrier that mimics the design of a car bumper, with the barrier's plastic absorber and flexible cover simulating typical cars' energy absorbers and plastic bumper covers. These tests are designed to drive bumper improvements that lead to better damage resistance in real-world crashes.
The biggest improvement for the Legacy was in the front full-width test. The '07 model sustained more than $4,000 damage (based on '09 parts and labor costs) when the bumper underrode the barrier. In contrast, the 2010 model sustained less than $900 in the same test.
"Subaru made some simple changes to the Legacy's front bumper," Nolan explains, "and they paid off in significantly lower repair costs." Compared with the new model, the 2007 Legacy sustained nearly 5 times as much damage in this one 6 mph impact. The main difference is that the 2010 Legacy's front reinforcement bar is a little taller, more than 6 inches wider, and more than 1½ inches higher off the ground. This kept the Legacy's bumper engaged with the barrier during the test, preventing it from sliding under the barrier. Plus the bumper bar extends to the corners to help protect headlights and fenders.
"The Legacy leapfrogs the competition for bumper protection," Nolan says. "These common sense bumper changes will help keep repair costs down in low-speed crashes."
2010 Subaru Legacy: rated ACCEPTABLE
2007 Subaru Legacy: rated POOR
2010 vs. 2007-09 Subaru Legacy bumper ratings and repair costs