Ford F-150 pickup beats rivals in key crash test

Which pickups performed best in IIHS crash tests?
Which pickups performed best in IIHS crash tests?

The all-aluminum Ford F-150 earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after receiving the best rating in a tough front crash test.

Pickup trucks from Toyota and General Motors didn't do quite so well, though, and Fiat Chrysler's Ram 1500 scored worst.

The trucks were put through a series of trials, including the institute's small overlap front crash test. In that test, which was introduced in 2012, a vehicle hits a barrier at 40 miles per hour with just the left quarter of its front bumper, putting the impact right in front of the driver's seat.

The test is designed to mimic a particularly dangerous type of crash.

While only the F-150 earned the top rating of "good" in that test, some trucks by GM (GM) and Toyota (TM) earned overall "acceptable" ratings, the second best.

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However, Toyota and GM trucks with bigger cabs earned the second-worst rating of "marginal," as did two types of Ram trucks made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAM).

Specifically, double cab models of the Toyota Tundra and the Chevrolet Silverado earned the higher "acceptable" rating. Their larger cab versions -- the Tundra CrewMax and the Silverado Crew Cab -- received the "marginal" rating.

Crash test results for the Silverado trucks also apply to models of the almost identical GMC Sierra. Both are made by GM.

The Quad Cab and Crew Cab versions of the Ram 1500 both earned "marginal" overall ratings, but "poor" ratings for structural integrity.

iihs truck crash

In the crash test, the door frame, instrument panel and steering column in the Ram trucks were pushed back toward the driver. In the Ram Crew Cab, the steering column also moved to the right, allowing the crash test dummy's head to roll off the left side of the airbag and approach the windshield pillar.

Fiat Chrysler responded to the results by pointing to the limits of the test.

"Our vehicles are designed for real-world performance and no single test determines overall, real-world vehicle safety," the automaker said in a statement. "Every FCA US vehicle meets or exceeds all applicable motor-vehicle safety standards."

The driver's foot space was also crushed inward in all the trucks except the Ford.

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"Drivers in these pickups would need help freeing their legs from the wreckage following a small overlap crash," said Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the insurance institute's Vehicle Research Center. "We encourage manufacturers to redesign their pickups to resist intrusion in the lower occupant compartment to safeguard people from serious leg and foot injuries that might require months of rehabilitation."

The institute tested two different body styles of each of the trucks. It began doing this after finding in crash tests last summer that the Ford F-150 SuperCab performed poorly in this test even though the larger crew cab version did well. That was because the smaller truck, at that time, lacked crash-protecting structures the bigger truck had.

Those structures have since been added to the SuperCab, as well, so it did better when subjected to the small overlap test this time.

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All the trucks earned "good" ratings in the institute's front, side and whiplash protection tests. However, not all of them did well in tests of roof strength, with the Ram 1500 trucks rated as "marginal" in that area.

Roof strength is particularly important for pickups, according to the institute, as 44% of deaths in pickups involve rollovers.

Besides helping keep occupants from being crushed when the roof caves in, stronger roofs can also help keep occupants from being thrown out of the vehicle through broken windows.

Pickup occupants are less likely to use seatbelts than occupants of cars, vans and SUVs, according to a 2014 study by the institute, making ejection from the vehicle more likely.

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