The Prius hybrid has been pretty much the same since the 2010 model year. When it was crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2011, it received an overall score of 5 stars:
But now, a new crash test for the 2014 model results in a 4-star overall score, while keeping the same scores in front impact, side crash, and rollover. Why the change? That's not quite clear.
There were some changes made to the way vehicles are rated starting with the 2011 model year, but not since then, so in theory it shouldn't affect the 2014 Prius. Our friends at Autoblog Green got in touch with a Toyota representative, and they don't seem to be sure either:
There have been no changes in the test standards and no changes in the car, other than minor reinforcement for small overlap crash test which we believe did not compromise integrity. We are not sure why it rated a 4 this time. We are looking at the test results and we are confident the new generation will move back to 5 stars.
That's from Jana Hartline, environmental communication manager at Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
I think the bottom line for anyone who's worried after seeing this is that the 2014 Prius is the same as the 2011 Prius and has the same level of safety, which is quite high. So if you were comfortable with the previous model years of the Prius, this shouldn't really change things. But if you can wait, Toyota should come out with a completely redesigned Prius for the 2015 model year. It should have better fuel economy (apparently about 55 MPG, though I wish they would aim higher than that) and probably improved safety, just because of technological improvements since 2010.