HONDA claims it has taken a significant step forward in crash protection, which will be seen in all its new models.
Researchers in Japan found that changing the design and layout of frames supporting engines and body panels reduced the amount of damage to vehicles involved in head-on or offset front collisions.
Now Honda has adopted the results of the research and decided to equip each new model it launches in future with a revised two-part mainframe structure. The change was revealed when the latest version of the Life, a 660cc city car produced solely for the domestic market, became the first Honda to feature the damage-limitation design.
Company executives staged a dramatic crash demonstration at Honda's giant development centre and proving grounds at Montegi, near Tokyo, to show how the new structure boosts safety by helping limit damage to the passenger compartment.
They sent a Life, which weighs just 1,000kg, hurtling into an offset-frontal smash with a Legend luxury saloon.
The vehicles were travelling at a combined speed of 60mpg when they rammed into each other and the violence of the impact with the 1,800kg Legend sent the Life hatchback bouncing upward and backward.
The tiny five-door model was spun around to face in the opposite direction after the crash, but it suffered less damage than in earlier tests involving the car's previous main frame – and the front doors could still be opened normally.
Senior chief engineer Tomiji Sugimoto said: 'The changes we have made allow us to better manage the huge forces that are created in crash situations. The new frame design is more efficient in the way it absorbs the impact and disperses the forces over a wider area.'
He added: 'The lower frame member helps prevent vertical or lateral misalignment with the frame of the other vehicle. This will make our cars behave more kindly with other vehicles when they crash in future.
'The new layout is of particular benefit in collisions between vehicles of different size and weight, and will allow the larger cars we produce to show less aggression in accidents with smaller vehicles.'