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Toyota Prius' safety rating falls

The Toyota Prius has been downgraded from five stars to four in the federal government's new car safety ratings. But by all measures, the Prius is still a very safe car. 

By Bengt HalvorsonGuest blogger / January 12, 2014

A 2012 Prius. The 2014 Prius model had its federal safety rating notched down slightly, but its safety credentials are still stellar.

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Toyota’s iconic hybrid, the Prius, has held quite a reputation for safety, as well as for efficiency and technology, of course. Yet new results from the federal government show that it’s been downgraded from five stars to four stars in New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) safety ratings.

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In the new set of crash tests, conducted last month on a 2014 model, the Prius earned just a four-star rating in the frontal barrier test. That was enough to keep its frontal score at four stars—the same as before—but nudge its Overall rating down to four stars in the frontal category.

The previous test, applied to the 2013 Prius, had been of a 2011 model, in February 2011.

The federal frontal test uses an average-sized adult dummy, with the car run at 35 mph into a fixed barrier. And the star rating is based on force measurements (and injury likelihood) at the head, neck, chest, and legs.

However, the Prius remains a top five-star performer for all federal side tests, including the side barrier test (for driver and passenger) and the side pole test, which simulates a side collision with a narrow, fixed object like a utility pole or tree.

In our full review of the 2014 Toyota Prius, we do note that this model includes seven standard airbags—including a driver’s knee bag—and it achieves the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ accolade.

Of course, it’s also worth taking this all into perspective, and noting that the Prius was last redesigned for 2010, with its occupant protection remaining competitive—and close to top-notch—five years later.

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