2014 Nissan LEAF Scores Poor In IIHS Small Overlap Test – Video + Images


While the 2014 Chevy Volt scored acceptable in the IIHS small overlap crash test, thus maintaining its Top Safety Pick + status, the Nissan LEAF didn’t fare nearly as well:

Volt #1 - Nissan LEAF Near The Bottom

Volt #1 – Nissan LEAF Near The Bottom

LEAF Results

LEAF Results

“Electric vehicles have a unique challenge in the small overlap test because of their heavy batteries. The Volt performed reasonably well, earning an acceptable rating, while the Leaf struggled.”

States the IIHS.

The small overlap test has proven to be difficult to pass for most vehicles available today.  The Nissan LEAF is no exception.  Its poor score means that Nissan will surely have some work ahead in trying to get it at least to the acceptable rating in the years ahead.

Images of the LEAF struggling through this test are seen below:

The dummy's position in relation to the door frame, steering wheel, and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver's survival space was maintained reasonably well.

The dummy’s position in relation to the door frame, steering wheel, and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver’s survival space was maintained reasonably well.

Door hinge pillar and instrument panel intrusion was extensive and contributed to a high risk of injuries to the left knee and left lower leg and a significant risk to the left thigh.

Door hinge pillar and instrument panel intrusion was extensive and contributed to a high risk of injuries to the left knee and left lower leg and a significant risk to the left thigh.

During the crash, the dummy's head and torso barely contacted the airbag before sliding off to the left as the steering column moved to the right. The side curtain airbag did not extend far enough forward toward the A-pillar.

During the crash, the dummy’s head and torso barely contacted the airbag before sliding off to the left as the steering column moved to the right. The side curtain airbag did not extend far enough forward toward the A-pillar.

And this is what the LEAF’s poor small overlap rating looks like on video:

Categories: Crashed EVs, Nissan

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40 Comments on "2014 Nissan LEAF Scores Poor In IIHS Small Overlap Test – Video + Images"

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I couldn’t imagine how the i-MiEV might perform!


The i-MiEV has a similar structure to the Smart cars that surrounds the passenger area. It might do better than you think. Or it might not. 🙂


Who knows until it happens? I want to see the little thing do well, it’ll be something else other than its price that’s noteworthy. It could perform well by keeping the steering wheel in place or being skimmed off instead of abruptly stopping at the A-pillars.

Unfortunately, Smart’s patented tridion cell is completely different to almost every other car on the market (excluding Renault Twingo). The i-MiEV’s chassis is old as we both know, made for the Japanese market. Designed in 2006 and I don’t know if they updated it or not. Both their lack of noses or crumple zones may not help them in the short overlap test either. Both the Smart and i-MiEV lack any length of their bonnets or crumple zones, that alone may not help them in the short overlap test either.

Besides, it being a small city car already plays against it. I think the only small city car to get acceptable ratings in the small overlap crash test was the Chevrolet Spark.

Jay Donnaway

Yes, that small-overlap test just missed the main front structural component. This test seems like a one-in-a-million shot; hitting a pole head-on but just on the corner of the car, though IIHS rationale said that nearly a quarter of serious-injury collisions are small offset.


You know you guys were thinking this but didn’t want to say it. Perhaps they tested a LEAF that had missing welds. http://insideevs.com/2014-nissan-leaf-recall-missing-spot-welds-means-affected-vehicles-will-replaced-free-charge/


The number of LEAFs that didn’t have the correct number of welds was around 200. The likelihood of this being one of them is very small… but possible I guess.


Now that would be embarrassing for the IIHS!

It looks like the dummy’s head missed the airbag because it flew to the side just before his head reached it.


Great point. The steering column was moved drastically to the right, causing the airbag to move as well.

There comes a point, however, when we make the cars SO protective that they become SO heavy that we have terrible fuel (electricity) economy.

Maybe we need the cars from Demolition Man with the cabins that completely fill with foam upon impact.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

As much as I might complain about the day-to-day visibility issues from the Volt’s ginormously-fat A-pillar, it does seem that the airbag contained within would have helped in this situation.

Mark H


Al S

Has replacing much of the aluminum in the frame by steel hurt the crash protection offered by Smyrna made LEAFs.?


AFAIK it was only the doors that changed from aluminum to steel in 2013, and the frame all along has been (and still is) steel.

Yet another reason to not go over 55 MPH with the Leaf…


Except that this is a test that is performed at 40 MPH. We’re talking about higher end city speeds here.


Alonso Perez

No current vehicle is survivable for crashes against a fixed object with impact at over 55 MPH.

By that I mean that your chances are lower than 50%. Probably in the order of 10%. There is a video somewhere of a VW Golf crash tested at 100 kph, about 62 MPH, and it is not survivable. And that crash was a moderate offset against a deformable aluminum energy absorber (to simulate the other vehicle), not a fixed, pole-like object.

The Model S has such a large crumple zone in front that it is probably one of the best cars you can buy for a front collision. Even so, I’m not sure you would survive a 55 MPH crash against a fixed object. You would certainly impact the interior of the car (airbags would not be enough to stop that), even if the structure itself managed to maintain integrity.

This is why the highway environment itself is supposed to be deformable. Light poles are supposed to break off, barriers are designed to yield, etc.


Any reason to think the 2015 would perform any better? 🙁


Not likely. The problem is in the overall design, which is hard to change MY to MY (not impossible since Honda pulled it off with the Civic). Best bet is for the 2nd Gen Leaf to see design improvements. Don’t know how far it is in the design process, or if redesigning for better test results will delay it (if it is even necessary), but it’s pretty certain that there won’t be a difference for MY 2015.


I’m waiting for the smug tesla owners to appear.


The Model S was out scored by the CMax in the roof test.

The Model S can not achieve the top rating due to its lack of even a simple, basic crash avoidance system.

Jouni Valkonen

Tesla is an evolutionary car. When Tesla gets those active safety features developed and tested proper sensors and cameras can probably be retrofitted to older S cars. Tesla’s software platform is very flexible.


They can not be retrofitted feasibly. It is not a software upgrade.

The technology has been around for two decades. Tesla is very late to the party.

Tesla is still struggling to get their rear camera to provide basic features.


Once again, the final word on the subject is brought to you by someone with zero facts to back them up, and a clear agenda.

Why don’t you go try and peddle your mindless, uninformed drivel to a more sympathetic audience (like OPEC or Fox News), CherylG?


It appears that the front bar did not transfer loads to the left sub-frame leaving only the fender to absorb the crash energy.
No doubt this will be improved on the 2016.


I remember a small overlap test of some other cars and it was pointed out cars it steel wheels tend to do worse than those with alloy wheels, so I wonder if that played a factor here.


I was thinking the same thing about the wheels. Why test the Volt with aluminum wheels whick are more likly to absorb the impact and use steel wheels on the Leaf? Seems a bit unfair. Does IIHS have GM stock? lol jk

Dumb question …. was the VIN checked to verify this wasn’t one of the 2014 LEAFs recalled with missing welds?

Is surprising that the motor fork just bent in toward the motor and did little to absorb energy. While the wheel axle just pivoted the wheel-hub into the drivers foot area. (like a big hammer aiming for your feet) Seems odd that pieces sheared off so cleanly without transferring more energy into crumpling more in the motor bay.

How do we know the reason the leaf did poorly is “because of their heavy batteries”?

They need to strengthen the passenger protection cell, and/or improve the energy absorption structure, and/or design it to deflect to the side extending the time it takes to come to a stop.

But, the battery pack doesn’t appear to be a factor, per se.

Brian’s question is the first thing that occurred to me, as well.

Tesla Fan

So it has the durability of a leaf lol


Thank goodness I did not buy a Leaf.

First battery problems, then missing welds, now this…

I wonder how Leaf sales are going to be for the rest of the year.


Sales will be fine. Overall the Leaf has been reliable, with high owner satisfaction. This is a new test, and a lot of models that were designed before this test have been rated poorly. For example, the Prius V was rated poorly, and it still sells fine. Many cars have yet to be tested, and considering how many flunk this new test, they would probably fail to.


Besides the Prius V, and besides the other models 4 cars listed in the table Eric posted, some other cars rated poorly in this test include the Prius C, and Hyundai Accent, Kia Forte. Think you are safer in something a little bigger? The popular Toyota Rav4, Kia Sportage and Ford Escape also rated poorly. Ok, those aren’t big enough right, how about a 3 row SUV — looks like the popular Honda Pilot as well as the Mazda CX-9 also rated poorly.

It is not that unusual to have a poor rating in this test. The majority of vehicles have not been tested but there are plenty that have been that do not do well.


Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9 are both 5-6 years old platform.

I imagine they would do better in the next rev of the design. The Acura MDX (similar platform) did well in the same test.

Pilot sales are already slowing down as its competition all been recently refreshed or redesigned. I expect Honda to come out with new 2016 Pilot soon.

Honda is going through its lineup to refresh one at a time…. Odyssey, Civic, CR-V, Accord, Fit, and next would be Ridgeline and Pilot.

CX-9 is also really old as well.


The Pilot redesign came 1 year before the LEAF came. The Rav4 and Escape redesigns came well after. Most cars on the road today were designed before this test came out, that is why so few currently get a good rating.


Consumer Reports just dropped the Nissan LEAF from their recommended list due to the poor safety results.


Yep, I suspect the Consumer’s Reports recommended list is getting much smaller due to the large number of vehicles turning in poor ratings in this test.

Jouni Valkonen

Tesla should also go through IIHS chrash tests as they are better than those NHTSA crash tests that lack small and moderate overlap tests that are most demanding for safety and often resemble real world conditions better.


The Model S would not be awarded the highest ranking and that would end the myth from this site that the Model S is the safest car in the galaxy, or whatever.


Thanks for your psychic (and, as usual, uninformed) appraisal of a future event.

Is there any way to hide posts from perpetual liars such as CherylG?

Bill Howland

Looks like Nissan has its work cut out for it.

On the bright side, Manufacturers do use these embarrassing videos to redesign future versions of, in this case the Leaf, to be much safer.