Updated Nissan Titan does worse in crash safety testing
But it's not all bad news as the truck earned top scores for its crash-avoidance technology.
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Vehicles are getting safer and safer. New technology provides more protection to occupants in crashes, advanced materials withstand impacts better and advanced driver aids can prevent wrecks from happening in the first place. But as the industry progresses, things don't always get better, in fact, following an update, the Nissan Titan full-size truck actually earned lower crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2021 model performs worse in the demanding passenger-side small-overlap test than its predecessor. The 2019 model earned a "good" rating, the top score IIHS hands out, across the board in six different categories. Unfortunately, the latest version of this tough pickup is only rated "acceptable," the second-highest score, because of increased intrusion into the passenger space. This reduced rating applies to both the extended-cab and crew-cab models.
Why the regression? Well, in 2020 Nissan made changes to frontal portions of the Titan's frame and it altered the hinge pillar, roof rail and lower sills. Whether engineers intended it or not, these foundational tweaks appear to have affected the truck's crash performance. Providing greater protection in certain wrecks, however, a driver-side knee airbag was added, and examples built after September of 2020 are also fitted with one of these devices on the passenger side.
Rubbing salt in the wound, there's another area where the Titan has backslid. The pickup's headlight performance is lower as well. Two lamp designs are offered, and both are rated "poor," IIHS' lowest rating. The preupdate Titan squeaked by with "marginal" scores for its headlamp designs, which is one step better.
But these reduced ratings don't mean the Titan is some rolling deathtrap. It's still a safe and competitive full-size truck. Beyond that, its crash-prevention technology is also excellent, having garnered a "superior" score. This Nissan may not be the newest pickup on the market, but it does a great job dodging vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes. The truck can avoid hitting other cars at both 12 mph and 25 mph, and it can stop for a pedestrian while traveling at a whopping 37 mph, a demanding test to be certain.
In response to these findings, Nissan North America said it's "committed to the safety and security of our customers and their passengers." All of the automaker's vehicles meet or exceed applicable headlight requirements. As for the Titan's crash-test performance, Nissan "will continue to evaluate the truck and consider improvements if appropriate."
Not only is it disappointing to see the Titan perform worse in IIHS testing, it's surprising. Vehicles almost always get better as automakers tweak or redesign them. It's rare to seem them slip like this. Hopefully next year Nissan will be able to correct this issue.