In the latest round of evaluations performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2010 Nissan Frontier was the only one of five small pickup trucks evaluated to earn a "good" overall rating -- including topping the field in its ability to withstand the organization's grueling roof-crush simulated-rollover test.
The Frontier -- also sold as the Suzuki Equator -- bested the Ford Ranger, which merited an "acceptable" overall mark, as well as the Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. The latter three all fell into the "marginal" category in a comprehensive battery of tests that rated their overall performance in front, side and rear impacts as well as the newly-added roof-strength arena.
Although the Institute's senior vice president David Zuby noted that as a group, small pickups don't fare as well as small cars or small SUVs in these tests, he did concede that the only thing that prevented the Nissan Frontier from being awarded a Top Safety Pick accolade was that it only scored an "acceptable" mark in its ability to protect passengers from neck injury in a rear impact. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must score "good" in all categories and come with electronic stability control. The Dakota-the only one of this set with side-curtain airbags that were optional and not standard -- had an issue when those inflatable restraints failed to deploy during this specific IIHS test. Chrysler engineers say they've isolated the problem to a glitch in the firing-logic algorithm and plan to have the truck retested once the upgraded software is installed.
With regards to performance in its first-ever simulated rollover test for small pickups, the 2010 Nissan Frontier was the sole member of this set to garner a "good" rating. Under IIHS stipulations, doing so requires that a vehicle be able to withstand a force four times its own unladen weight applied to one corner of its roof while suffering no more than five inches of "crush." This far exceeds the current federally-mandated 1.5-times-weight requirement for that same amount of deflection -- and according to the IIHS also equates to a 50 percent likely reduction in serious or fatal injuries that can occur in the case of a single-vehicle rollover crash. Compared to the Frontier's 4.11 index number, the Ford Ranger's 3.32 score placed it in the "acceptable" range, which starts at is 3.25, while the Dodge Dakota (3.23), Toyota Tacoma (3.08) and Chevy Colorado (2.96) all occupied the "marginal" segment, that commences at 2.5.