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2005 Volkswagen Jetta Does Well In Crash Tests

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The 2005 Volkswagen Jetta received good ratings in front and side crash tests, the insurance industry reported Sunday in an evaluation of midsize vehicles.

Researchers rated 15 midsize vehicles with a base price of less than $21,000. The Jetta, the only newly tested vehicle, comes standard with air bags intended to protect the occupants head, chest and abdomen.

The test results on the Jetta "show you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a vehicle that offers good protection in front and side crashes," said Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"We want more manufacturers to do what Volkswagen has done and make side air bags with head protection standard in all of their vehicles," O'Neill said.

Ten midsize cars, all tested in 2004, received poor ratings in side-impact tests. The vehicles included the Suzuki Verona, the Hyundai Sonata, the Kia Optima, the Saturn L Series, the Dodge Stratus, the Chrysler Sebring, the Mazda 6, the Toyota Camry, the Chevrolet Malibu, and the Nissan Altima.

Most of the cars receiving the low ratings listed the side air bags as an option. The air bags are standard on the Hyundai Sonata and its corporate cousin, the Kia Optima; and in 2002-2005 models of the Saturn L Series.

In the side-impact test, each vehicle was hit with a 3,300-pound barrier moving at 31 mph. The test, introduced by the institute last year, was designed to show what happens when pickup trucks or sport utility vehicles hit cars in the side.

Poor means that in a real crash of similar severity, the occupants faced the likelihood of suffering very serious or fatal injuries. Good means there is a good likelihood the occupants would survive the crash.

The tests offered mixed results for the vehicles. In frontal tests, the Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima all received the top rating of good. In the institute's front crash, vehicles strike a barrier on the driver side at 40 mph.

The institute also tested a version of the Toyota Camry that included side air bags. It received a good in both the front and side-impact tests. A 2005 version of the vehicle is scheduled to be tested by the institute this year.

Also receiving good marks in front- and side-impact tests were the Honda Accord and the Mitsubishi Galant. The Subaru Legacy received a good for frontal tests and marginal for side-impact tests.

Max Gates, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman, called it a "very severe test" and said the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring were being produced "long before this test was conceived by IIHS."

Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes said the company builds its vehicles to "meet and exceed" federal standards and said the institute's tests are "over and above that federal safety standard."

The Suzuki Verona did not have standard or optional side air bags in the 2004 model. The safety feature is standard in 2005 models and will be tested by the institute this year.

American Suzuki Motor Corp. called the Verona "a safe, reliable vehicle that complies with all federal crash test standards."

Nissan spokesman Kyle Bazemore said the 2005 Altima was designed "to provide a high level of occupant safety in a wide range of real-world crashes, including side impact collisions."

GM spokesman Alan Adler said the Saturn L Series went out of production in January. The Chevrolet Malibu, meanwhile, will be retested by the institute in May. Upper-level models of the vehicle come equipped with side air bags.

Kia said in a statement it didn't "feel the test is an accurate reflection of the collision protection offered by the vehicle."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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