Small vehicles have a lot of advantages over heavier cars and trucks: they're often cheaper and guzzle less fuel. But in terms of safety, prospective buyers may want to think twice.
Many of the smallest cars sold in the U.S. performed poorly in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). IIHS, an independent non-profit that tests new vehicles, wrecked 11 subcompact and mini-cars as part of the group's small overlap crash test. Only one, General Motors' Chevrolet Spark, came out reasonably OK.
Six of the cars earned IIHS' lowest rating, "Poor." Those vehicles included Chrysler's Fiat 500, the Honda Fit, the Hyundai Accent, the Mitsubishi Mirage, the Nissan Versa, and Toyota's Prius c. The Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Mazda2, and Toyota Yaris scored the second-worst of four possible ratings, "Marginal." Chevy's Spark earned a rating of "Acceptable." Not one got the top rating of "Good."
Most of the vehicles have done well in the Institute's other tests as well as in government trials, but the new measure has been particularly hard on vehicles of all types. In the so-called small overlap test, a vehicle hits a barrier at 40 miles per hour on one-quarter of the front bumper. The impact hits the left side of the car, near the driver's seat. IIHS, which films many of its tests, posted the results on Wednesday.