Subcompact Cars Fare Poorly in New Crash Tests

IIHS/APThe Honda Fit after a crash test.

DETROIT -- Subcompact cars fared poorly in new crash tests performed by an insurance industry group.

None of the 12 minicars tested got the highest rating of "good" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Chevrolet Spark was the only car that earned the second-highest rating of "acceptable." Six of the cars -- including the segment's best-seller, the Nissan Versa -- got the lowest rating of "poor."

All of the cars were from the 2013 or 2014 model years.

"Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That's why it's even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection," said Joe Nolan, IIHS's senior vice president for vehicle research.

The institute's small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, mimics what happens when a car's front corner collides with another vehicle or an object like a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test differs from the U.S. government's frontal crash test, in which a car strikes a rigid barrier head-on at 35 mph.

IIHS says hitting only part of the front end makes it harder for cars to manage the energy from a crash. In several of the subcompacts, the structures collapsed, which can exacerbate injuries because the air bags, seats and other parts get knocked out of position.

In the test of the Honda Fit, for example,
the steering column pushed so far into the vehicle that the dummy's head slid off the air bag and hit the instrument panel. IIHS said the Fit was one of the worst performers in terms of potential injuries to the driver.

Honda responded that the 2015 Fit, which goes on sale in a few months, should earn a top score on the small offset test. The recently redesigned Honda Civic, which is one size up from the Fit, is among five small cars with "good" ratings on the test. A four-door Civic is around 300 pounds heavier and 18 inches longer than the current four-door Fit.

The current Fit does get top scores in the institute's other four tests, including measurements of roof strength and side impact protection.

IIHS said the Fiat 500 was also one of the worst performers. The crash force ripped the door hinges off the 500, causing it to fall open during the test.

Spokesman Eric Maybe said the Fiat 500 meets all government safety requirements and, like the Fit, gets "good" ratings in all four of the institute's other crash tests.

Cars with "marginal" ratings were the Kia Rio, Mazda2, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. Cars with "poor" ratings -- in addition to the Fit, the Fiat 500 and the Versa -- were the Toyota Prius C, Mitsubishi Mirage and Hyundai Accent.

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The real result of the test is that cars designed before the 2012 introduction of the new test don't do so well and the car that was designed after the introduction of the test did pretty well.

I'd say it shows how well the car companies respond to changing requirements. For 2015 Honda has a new FIt and Fiat has a new 500. Let's see how well the new ones do. I expect that the next Fiesta and Yaris will do better as well as will all of the other new ones.

Personally I love the little cars, they are fun to drive and handle very well. They also go a very long way on a gallon of gas. If this report affects sales, it just means my next car may cost me a lot less money.

January 22 2014 at 3:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to digitalmag's comment

I feel safer in one of my small sports cars (most are modified), than my truck. I can not tell you how many accidents I have avoided in the sports car because it can handle and I know it's limits. if I were in my truck, I would have "tanked" thru them.

January 26 2014 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Subcompact cars fare poorly in crash tests. Duh, how did they ever figure that out?

January 22 2014 at 11:17 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

BIG IRON is better. If people had the stones to keep driving our large AND SAFE cars of the 60s and 70s, gas would never have gone beyond a dollar a gallon., Believe me - the perto racketeers know exactly how high they can jack up the price before gas becomes unaffordable.

January 22 2014 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Which comes as a surprise to absolutely no one with a room temperature IQ and enough common sense to come in out of the rain.

Which pretty much excludes enviro-Nazis.

January 22 2014 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bullwinkle94a's comment

Ah, yes… you're one of *those* people.

January 23 2014 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply