Everyone likes a good comeback story. When the 2013 Honda Civic emerged redesigned after just one year on the market, most of us were expecting some nicer interior materials and some sound deadening. Honda didn’t just settle for on-the-surface improvements, however, and it shows.
With new structural bracing that was added for the refresh, the 2013 Honda Civic sedan and coupe have earned the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick+” designation, becoming the first compact car to do so.
The IIHS has designated “Top Safety Picks” for years, with each automaker successively improving designs until the award became fairly ubiquitous. In its offset crash testing procedures, it tested for a 40-percent front overlap, which centered most of a simulated impact on the bumper of a car. In August, the IIHS started testing for small-front overlap crashes, in which only 25 percent of a car’s front is hit, putting the same impact on a much smaller area. This weeded cars out from one another.
Honda first got word of the new IIHS testing in 2009 when most of its engineering had already been finished on the 2012 Civic as well as the larger Accord. But with the quick refresh on the Civic, it gave Honda some time to improve the structural design of the 2013 Civic and make it stronger.
“There’s very little chance of a life-threatening injury to the head or chest,” says Honda’s Chuck Thomas, Chief Engineer of Automotive Safety for Honda R&D Americas, Inc. in Raymond, Ohio, responsible for continuous safety improvements.
Honda has created a novel structure called ACE II–Advanced Compatibility Engineering–that’s designed to be “compatible” with safely crashing both larger and smaller vehicles into one another without the hazards typically associated with the size differentials. In the ACE II designed for the 2013 Honda Civic and larger Accord, the crash structure is set up relatively high within the body; Honda lowers its impact absorption point in larger vehicles like trucks, crossovers, and minivans.
Differentiating from standard car structures, the ACE front bumper beam is part of the body structure, aided by tertiary supports. This helps disperse forces across the whole body, using more high-tensile steel than what’s been used in previous-generation cars. Normal bumper beams are typically mounted at two low points and take front impacts well, but have suffered with the small-front overlap testing when more force has been distributed to the outside of the vehicle structure.
Honda boasts that not only does it have the first compact car to earn the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+ designation, but it also has five cars total that have earned that title–Civic coupe and sedan, Accord coupe and sedan, and the Acura TL. Across all of Honda and Acura, 19 models are Top Safety Picks.
This time around, the Volvo XC60, Lincoln MKZ, and Mazda6 joined the Civic in earning Top Safety Pick+ honors.