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Mini-cars Prove Unsafe According to IIHS Safety Test

According to a new report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only one minicar out of 11 achieved an “acceptable” rating in an overlap front crash test.

While these subcompact cars are cute, efficient, and relatively inexpensive, with their small interior volume of less than 99 cubic feet, they are undeniably unsafe. This test in fact confirms many minicar critics’ assumptions: it the worst performing type of vehicle evaluated by the non-profit educational/research organization.

The results of this test showed that only 1 minicar, the Chevrolet Spark, received an acceptable rating in the front crash test, along with good ratings in the IIHS’s four other crashworthiness evaluations. The Spark was awarded the “Top Safety Pick” award.

The small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, simulates what would happen when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or stationary object such as a tree or utility pole. During this test, 25% of the vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

According the IIHS, “The test is more difficult than the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test because most of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone is bypassed. That makes it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy, and the occupant compartment can collapse as a result. Nevertheless, in many size categories, manufacturers have found ways to improve vehicle structures to meet this challenge.”

What does this mean for mini compacts? Ultimately lack of interior room, overall size and weight, these vehicles and their occupants are at a serious safety disadvantage. In contrast to minicars, small compact cars (which are slightly larger) have performed significantly better in these types of tests. The component ratings that make up the overall marks, every minicar including the Spark rated marginal or poor for structure (the most fundamental element of occupant protections), the IIHS said.

“When a vehicle’s structure doesn’t hold up, injury risk is high. Collapsing structures can knock frontal airbags and seats out of position, exacerbating the problem.”

With the exception of the Spark and the Mazda 2, all of the vehicles tested received low ratings for restraints and kinematics: allowing too much occupant forward movement during the crash test. During these tests, either the safety belts did not do a sufficient enough job holding the crash dummy in place or the dummy’s head missed or slid off the frontal airbag. The side curtain airbag also did not provide sufficient coverage. The worst performing cars in the structural safety test included the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500. Both of these cars’ intruding structures seriously compromised driver space and the crash dummy’s head did not stay in contact with the frontal airbag.

These tests ultimately concluded that subcompact cars posed a significant safety risk to occupants, and consumers should be advised of the potential safety risks (should they be involved in an accident) when buying one of these types of cars.

Click here for the full report.

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