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Low-speed crashes for midsize cars bring high-priced repairs

DETROIT — None of the six most-popular midsize sedans earned a top rating in bumper safety in the latest crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Mazda 6 was the only car to receive an "acceptable" rating — one rating below "good," the top rating — based on the average cost to repair front, rear and corner bumpers following a 6 mph crash.

A 6 mph crash can simulate a common parking accident, such as backing into another vehicle. IIHS rates vehicles on a four-notch scale ranging from "good" to "poor."

Ratings for the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata improved one notch to "marginal" from "poor," with the average cost of repairs coming in at $1,133 and $1,265, respectively.

"Consumers buy midsize cars for practical reasons. There's nothing practical about a $1,000-plus repair bill after a minor bump in commuter traffic," said IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan.

The 2009 Ford Fusion's bumper rating slipped to "poor" from "marginal" in 2007, with the average cost of repair reaching $2,207. Nolan said the car's weaker bumper beams had a big impact on performance.

"The Fusion's bumper buckled, which caused it to underride the test barrier, resulting in twice as much damage as the 2007 model in the rear test," he said.

General Motors' Chevrolet Malibu also received a "poor" ranking, with average report costs hitting $2,329.

The average repair cost is weighted based on repair costs to the vehicle's various bumpers and real-world damage patterns. The full front and rear test results are given double the weight, IIHS said, because crashes that damage those bumpers are twice as likely as corner impacts.

Clunker program rolls on

The Senate passed a $2 billion extension Thursday for the popular "cash for clunkers" program, clearing the legislation for President Barack Obama's signature. The House approved the measure last week. Under cash for clunkers, consumers qualify for up to $4,500 in federal subsidies when they trade for new, more energy-efficient models.

Low-speed crashes for midsize cars bring high-priced repairs 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 10:44pm]
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