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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2010

BMW 5 Series, Hyundai Sonata get top score on U.S. crash tests


Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's 5 Series and Hyundai Motor Co.'s Sonata got the highest rating among passenger cars and trucks tested for crashes under a new U.S. rating system.

Female crash-test dummies were added to the male figures for the first time as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated 34 models under a redesigned testing regime, the regulatory agency said Tuesday.

BMW's four-door, rear-wheel-drive 5 Series and the latest model of Hyundai's Sonata were the only vehicles in the first batch rated to receive five stars, the top overall safety score. Both vehicles scored five stars on side-crashes and rollovers and four stars in frontal crashes.

"Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the statement.

Nissan Motor Co.'s Versa received the lowest overall rating of two stars, scoring four stars in rollovers, three in frontal crashes and two in side crashes.

The new crash tests include dummies representing women, who tend to be smaller than the male figures used exclusively in the past and may be harmed differently in an accident, according to NHTSA. The new dummies also collect data about injuries to the chest, head, neck and legs while the old ones measured only chest damage.

NHTSA has also begun compiling an overall rating for each model for the first time rather than reporting only the front, side and rollover collision results.

Automakers had questioned the redesigned safety ratings because they aren't directly comparable to the ratings they replaced, potentially creating confusion.

The agency said it is continuing to test cars and trucks and plans to add the results as they are complete to its website at www.safercar.gov.

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