Is Nissan’s safety rating for small trucks better than Toyota’s?

When it comes to Toyota vs. Nissan small trucks, crashworthiness was Toyota’s ticket to victory, since all other categories were equally bad.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Apr 23, 2020

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Things to remember...
  • Introduced by Henry Ford in 1925, pickup trucks have always been a way to enjoy an elegant ride that is power-ridden
  • Famous for off-roading endeavors, trucks enable drivers to undermind curbs and uneven terrain which can be easily conquered
  • This type of driving sometimes brings danger, and the International Institute for Highway Safety assesses the safety measures that truck manufacturers enact
  • An overview of the IIHS job is best shown through a comparison of two popular pickup truck brands, Toyota and Nissan


As mentioned, trucks have a lot more usages than basic transportation. This comes from the fact that the tires tend to be oversized, engines extremely powerful, and hydraulics strengthened.

Even smaller pickup trucks are notorious for limitless possibilities of off-road driving. So, how does this impact the driver’s safety?

Drivers that are trading personal well-being for a joyful thrill will often find themselves facing a potent situation.

Since trucks weigh a few tons on average, pushing the vehicle against the law of physics can result in a collision, hydroplaning, loss of control over the vehicle, and potentially, death.

The same lingering dangers exist with first-time drives and poor weather conditions. Make sure to compare rates with our free quote tool above! 

Crashing a Vehicle is Done Properly by the IIHS

To ensure that the market demand is familiar with all aspects of a truck, the IIHS tests the durability, dangerous situations’ performance, frame strength, power-to-weight ratios, airbag deployment efficiency, and so on.

The tests are done by controlled collisions that determine the extent of dummy’s injuries as a consequence of proper, or lack thereof, safety.

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Toyota Versus Nissan

As far as Japanese businesses go, Toyota and Nissan Motor Corporation might be the largest oligopoly in the Land of the Rising Sun.

These two giants produce automobiles in excess of 20 million units a year, thus generating over 40 trillion Japanese Yen or more than 350 billion U.S. Dollars.

To compare the companies in the area of small pickup trucks, Toyota’s Tacoma and Nissan’s Frontier are reviewed. The IIHS completed extensive tests on crew-cab pickups for these 2017 models, although they tested large cabinets as well.

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Crashworthiness

The IIHS evaluates vehicles in three categories. Crashworthiness is the first and, arguably, the most important one. Grades a car can obtain are good, acceptable, moderate, and poor.

Thus, in the case of Toyota versus Nissan, the larger manufacturer seems to prevail.

Toyota achieved a “good” score in every single category, whereas Nissan obtained three “good” results, one “moderate, and one “acceptable”. Tacoma showed a better ability to preserve the driver’s survival space that Frontier was unable to keep up with.

Dummy inside of the Nissan model was exposed to severe knee and hip injuries. Frontier did, however, show a slightly higher strength-to-weight ratio for roof testing and won 4.85 to 4.13. Nevertheless, Tacoma managed to design a vehicle that nails the small overlap front test, thus compensating for a small margin loss in roof strength.

Crash Avoidance & Prevention

Another test that is done by facilitating a collision-oriented environment is crash prevention. Vehicles are accelerated to a certain speed prior to facing imminent danger.

Then, the rate at which the vehicle slows down is measured to evaluate accident-prevention measurements. Sadly, both Tacoma and Frontier lacked the results in this test and no comparisons can be discussed.

Another part of this category is the performance of the headlights. Both vehicles did a test within this area and performed equally appalling.

The grade assigned was “poor” because models lacked the ability to adjust to curves, switch from high to low-beams automatically, or provide adequate visibility. Overall, this test was not detrimental to the comparison of either model as they uniformly failed.

Child Seat Anchor (LATCH)

Moving on to another category where vehicles seem to be fairly matched, Latch testing is the last IIHS area of evaluation. Here, both Tacoma’s and Frontier’s child seat anchors were graded.

The scoring is the same as for the crashworthiness test, and the highest grade is given to vehicles with clearly visible latches that cannot be mistaken for some other hardware.

Also, the driver needs to be able to implement the latch without exerting an enormous amount of force or being unable to sit properly because of it.

Tacoma and Frontier achieved a “moderate” performance as their latches were difficult to locate and could be mistaken for something else. Hence why this makes for another category where the vehicles showed barely any disconnection in performance.

2017 Top Safety Pick and/or 2017 Top Safety Pick+

As per the IIHS, neither model was given the aforementioned awards. Toyota Tacoma had a perfect performance in the area of crashworthiness which is known to achieve a Top Safety Pick. The reason why that recognition is lacking here is unknown.

Which model performed better?

As narrow as this comparison was, there is only one category that makes a difference. Crashworthiness is Toyota’s ticket to victory since the other two categories were equally bad.

The fact that Tacoma preserves the driver and prevents lower-limbs injuries means that tangible safety exists.

Drivers of this car can enjoy off-roading with a reduced uncertainty about the overall security. The Frontier made by Nissan, however, has areas that should be improved upon. Only after making the modifications, the car might be able to achieve the same standards Toyota set.

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