- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2010

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata joins an elite group of motor vehicles as a “Top Safety Pick” of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This award is given only to vehicles that do a superior job protecting people in front, side, rear and rollover crashes. A car’s ability to handle itself in these crashes is determined by how many “good” ratings it receives in each of the tests. The vehicle also must have electronic stability control readily available as an option.

Sonata is built from the ground up with safety in mind, with a hot stamped high-strength steel body structure, advanced airbag technology and electronic stability control.

In 2005, the Sonata was the first popular midsize sedan to standardize electronic stability control. Every 2011 Sonata has this technology as standard equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that electronic stability control results in 35 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 30 percent fewer single-vehicle fatalities in passenger cars.

The Sonata also features a state-of-the-art anti-lock braking system, including Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution. Sonata features six airbags - including dual front, front-seat-mounted side-impact, and front and rear side curtain airbags - along with active front-seat head restraints.

Although past Hyundai models, such as the Genesis, have been named the insurance institute’s Top Safety Picks, the standards are higher than ever, with a roof strength test added to the qualifications. According to the new guidelines, roofs must have more than double the strength of current federal requirements in order to better maintain vehicle integrity in the event of a rollover accident.

Because this roof strength test is so demanding, many of the vehicles that were previously named Top Safety Picks have been dropped from the list. From the 2011 Sonata’s inception, Hyundai engineers carefully considered the importance of roof strength and designed the newest edition to pass this high hurdle.

The other Top Safety Pick standards are stringent as well - the institute’s frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle’s overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a dummy representing a 50th percentile male in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion video to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or sport utility vehicle. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented dummies representing an average-sized woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle’s structural performance during the impact.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry - the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph.

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