According to a recent article in the LA Times, the vehicles performed the worst so far of all the cars evaluated by the leading insurance industry group—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Only the Chevrolet Spark earned an “acceptable” mark. The Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, and Mitsubishi Mirage all received low grades.
On the test, in which the front end of the vehicle on the driver’s side hits a 5-foot tall barrier at 40 mph, no brand subcompact car earned a “good” mark. The test is known as the “small overlap front crash test”.
The test was developed because the type of collision, a front-corner collision, can be particularly severe for passengers.
According to the institute, this crash test is more difficult than those conducted by the government because most of the car’s front-end crush zone is bypassed and the passenger compartment can cave in.
The price and compact style of these vehicles make them a popular pick, especially for younger generations purchasing their first vehicle. But these tests play into safety ratings, car reviews, and consumer perceptions and could affect the vehicles’ popularity.
Even the Chevrolet Spark’s vehicle structure—the only minicar to earn an “acceptable” rating from this particular crash test—came apart in the crash.
A report from the institute emphasizes that when a vehicle’s structure doesn’t hold up, injury risk is high for passengers.
When considering the purchase of a minicar, even a technically approved one (like the Chevy Spark), it’s vital to remember that the vehicle weighs less than 2,500 pounds and therefore does not offer the same protection as a larger and heavier car.
This test revealed several other safety issues with the subcompact cars as well. According to the article, in seven of the cars the seat belt didn’t properly hold the dummy in place or the dummy’s head missed the front airbag.
In eight of the cars, the side curtain airbag did nothing to protect the dummy’s head. In the two worst performing cars, the dummy’s head slid past the airbag and hit the dashboard and the driver door opened after the hinges were broken.
Many of these models are being re-designed to meet the new crash test safety standards, and carmakers are constantly working to improve the vehicles. Some improvements include the use of high-strength steel.
But, be aware of a car’s safety rating in crash tests before you make a purchase. Anything can happen out on the road, make sure you and your passengers are protected.