Safety First

NHTSA looks to add new advanced driver assistance tech to testing regimen

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 delivers new safety and driver assistance tech to the company's 2021 model lineup.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made public a list of proposed upgrades to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). NCAP testing addresses the crashworthiness of a vehicle as well as the vehicle's headlight functionality. These new proposed measures go even further, putting driver assistance and safety technology to the test.

Automakers often strive to achieve the highest score possible in NCAP testing, wearing their five-start safety ratings and Top Pick designations as badges of honor in marketing campaigns.

"Thanks in part to NCAP, new vehicles today are much safer than a generation ago," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens. "Even so, there are still too many fatalities and serious injuries in crashes every year, so it is critical that vehicles keep getting safer in the future, and a modernized NCAP will better enable American families to select vehicles with the safety features they want."

The immediate planned update to NCAP testing includes four advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS): lane keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and blind spot intervention. Engineers have designed these four specific technologies to mitigate high-frequency and high-risk crash types.

NHTSA is currently seeking public input on how best to develop a rating system for ADAS technologies.

"These upgrades will make NCAP more dynamic," Deputy Administrator Owens said. "American car buyers want safety, and NHTSA wants to empower them with comparative safety information about vehicles in the market. This information creates powerful market-based incentives for automakers to invest in advanced safety technologies that will save lives and prevent injuries."

The NHTSA began testing vehicles in 1978. The first tests examined frontal impact protection and used data from crash test dummies. The five-star safety rating system was established in 1993 and have been steadily increasing the scope of the testing over the last two decades.

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The new Civic Hatchback just went on sale.

Honda

The Honda Civic is one of the most popular and well-known cars of any type. Honda keeps refining the Civic formula to the point that it seems hard for the car to get any better, but that's what we're here to talk about. The 2022 model year sees the Civic enter its eleventh generation, and updates for the new model year make the car more upscale, more refined, and safer than ever before. Honda released the Civic Sedan first, but the Hatchback is now on the streets. Both cars are excellent, but we want to take a closer look at the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback. Here are three things to know about the car.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback The Civic Hatchback is almost as practical as a small SUV, and it's way more fun to drive. Honda

Cargo Space

Looking at the Civic Hatchback, or any modern Civic for that matter, it's easy to start believing that there's nothing to it - that you can't use it as a proper family car. That isn't the case here, nor is it the case with the 2022 Civic Sedan. The Hatchback starts with 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, and the rear bench folds flat to open up even more room for gear. That's shy of a compact crossover, but better than many subcompact crossovers - and the Civic is infinitely more fun to drive than either. The Honda CR-V, for example, offers 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats, but the subcompact HR-V offers just 23.2 cubic feet of space. I know which vehicle I'd rather drive, and it's the Civic Hatchback by miles and miles.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Clever design elevates the Civic above its competition.Honda

Refinement and Design

Honda's redesign of the Civic started with the Sedan, which released first. Its interior carries premium feeling materials and a grown-up design that is at odds with the Civic's reasonable price tag. There are several clever design touches like a singular metal grille that runs the length of the dash. The front air vents are concealed behind it and feature thoughtfully designed control knobs. It's a detail that isn't seen in other cars at this price point, and it's one that elevates the Civic from a budget car to one that feels special.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback All Civics come packed with safety tech.Honda

Safety Features and Crash Test Scores

The Honda Civic Sedan and Hatchback both earned Top Safety Pick + awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Vehicles earn the honor by scoring "Good," "Advanced," or "Superior" in all categories, including headlights. On top of that, Honda equips the cars with plenty of advanced driver aids, including forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. Blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available in higher trims.

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What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTS My SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTS The pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTS I'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

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