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Best Selling Small Autos Perform Poorly in Crash Testing

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In the newest crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only six of the best-selling small cars in the country scored well. Twelve models were tested, six earned a good or acceptable rating; the other six were rated marginal or poor. As a group, small cars fared worse than their midsize, moderately priced counterparts in the same test but better overall than small SUVs. (ABC World News, Aug. 8, 2013)

According to the IIHS, the 2012 upsurge in auto fatalities has led investigators to take a closer look at car safety. There is debate as to whether the increase in fatalities can be explained by our newest, pervasive bad habit:  texting while driving.  Typically, crash safety tests focus on head-on collisions. This recent test subjected small cars to collisions designed to hit the corner of a vehicle, rather than the more typical head-on collision – an “offset” crash. The tests target the ‘25% overlap’, that area between the front of a vehicle and the reinforced side door section. Airbags aren’t typically constructed for that section and in many of the cars tested the safety belts and airbags failed to adequately protect drivers.

“In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. In many vehicles the impact at a 25 percent overlap misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy. That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver’s head outboard, away from the protection of the front airbag. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off of it, the head and chest are unprotected.”

“Manufacturers need to focus on the whole package,” says David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research officer. “That means a strong occupant compartment that resists the kinds of intrusion we see in a frontal crash like this, safety belts that prevent a driver from pitching too far forward and side curtain airbags to cushion a head at risk of hitting the dashboard or window frame.” (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Aug. 8, 2013)

This list ranks the small cars according to safety, as measured by the crash test results. The IIHS and the car manufacturers want to reassure us of the overall safety of the vehicles involved and stress the need for a continued commitment to auto safety. The good news is that we have six options for safe small cars; the bad news is that there are still many points of vulnerability in automobiles.

Good/acceptable ratings:

  • Honda Civic 4-door
  • Honda Civic 2-door
  • Dodge Dart
  • Ford Focus
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Scion tC (2014)

Marginal/poor ratings:

  • Chevrolet Sonic
  • Volkswagen Beetle
  • Chevrolet Cruze
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Kia Soul
  • Kia Forte (2014)


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    Generally vehicles with equal weight front and rear have a fatality occurrence of 50 per million registered. This can be attributed to human error.
    Consistently vehicle with more than 63 percent weight on the front will have 3 times as many accidents. The difference in weight makes predicting a safe speed harder and recovery from a breakaway of the lighter rear almost impossible.
    On these vehicles keeping the best tires on the rear will decrease the number of accidents see lossofcontrolaccidents at blogspot