2011 Chevrolet Cruze
 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze has become the first vehicle to earn a five-star “overall vehicle score” in a recently-revised National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test rating system.

The new NHTSA crash test ratings, released this fall for new 2011 models, combine more rigorous front and side impact crash tests with rollover resistance ratings to determine the overall vehicle score. To achieve a five-star overall vehicle score, a car must achieve perfect five-star ratings in all three tests.

“Cruze has achieved five-star crash safety scores everywhere it is rated in the world,” said Jeff Boyers, General Motors’ executive director of vehicle safety. “This is the direct result of our global engineering team’s focused effort. These safety ratings reflect the confidence we have in Cruze’s state-of-the-art safety technologies and overall crashworthiness.”

Although the Cruze has only been out a short time in the United States, it has already gained a reputation as an especially safe small car, featuring standard electronic stability control, ten standard airbags, and a “Smart Pedal” accelerator pedal override system, designed to prevent cases of unintended acceleration.

“Cruze is winning over consumers with its design, amenities, fuel economy, and strong value for the money,” said Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s vice president of marketing. “The five-star overall vehicle safety rating provides another great reason for small car buyers to consider Cruze.”

Many automakers have struggled to achieve high cras h test ratings under the NHTSA’s more strict system. Despite earning a perfect rollover rating, Subaru’s newest Legacy achieved just four stars from the system’s more stringent front and side impact tests, leading to a four-star overall rating. The Mazda3 hatchback achieved a perfect frontal crash-test rating and a four-star rollover score, but was hampered by a two-star side impact rating, leading to a lowered overall vehicle score. But the NHTSA expected some manufacturers would have to return to the drawing boards to maintain high crash test scores.

“More stars equal safer cars,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, upon rolling out the new system in October. “Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers.”

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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