Safest, Least Safe Small Car Crash Tests

PHOTO: Action shot taken during the small overlap frontal crash test on the 2013 Honda Civic 4-door, Jan 29, 2013.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Only six of the best-selling small cars in the country scored well in new frontal crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Of the 12 models tested, six earned a good or acceptable rating, while the other six were rated marginal or poor.

"This is a challenging new test, so it's not surprising that some small cars are doing poorly," the institute's Russ Rader said. "Some manufacturers who have been following the Institute's research since 2009 on small overlap crashes began making changes to their vehicles early to perform well in the test."

That includes Honda, which has the only small car to earn a good rating: the Civic's 2- and 4-door models.

"Smaller, lighter cars inherently afford less protection in crashes than bigger, heavier ones. So it's even more important for small-car buyers to choose one with the best safety ratings," he said.

The new test replicates a "real world" overlap crash that occurs when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or a stationary object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, one-fourth of the mass of the car on the driver's side collides with a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour.

The cars tested by the insurance industry-financed institute, were a mix of 2013 and 2014 models, according to the ranking.

Here are the results of the 12 cars tested:

Overall: Good

1.
Honda Civic 4-door

Structure: Good

Restraints and kinematics: Good

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Acceptable

Overall: Good

2.
Honda Civic 2-door

Structure: Good

Restraints and kinematics: Good

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Marginal

Overall: Acceptable

3.
Dodge Dart

Structure: Acceptable

Restraints and kinematics: Marginal

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Good

Overall: Acceptable

4.
Ford Focus

Structure: Marginal

Restraints and kinematics: Acceptable

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Good

Overall: Acceptable

5.
Hyundai Elantra

Structure: Marginal

Restraints and kinematics: Acceptable

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Good

Overall: Acceptable

6.
Scion tC

Structure: Marginal

Restraints and kinematics: Acceptable

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Acceptable

Overall: Marginal

7.
Chevrolet Sonic

Structure: Acceptable

Restraints and kinematics: Marginal

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Marginal

Overall: Marginal

8.
Volkswagen Beetle

Structure: Acceptable

Restraints and kinematics: Poor

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Good

Volkswagen responded: The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle has demonstrated an excellent overall safety record and we are proud that the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has named the Beetle as a Top Safety Pick. This marks the ninth Volkswagen to make the 2013 Top Safety Pick list. In addition to the Top Safety Pick, the Beetle has an overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Volkswagen vehicles are engineered to exceed all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as well as to perform to the highest level in tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Volkswagen commends the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) efforts to improve the safety of all vehicles on the roads of America. This latest test—the small overlap test in which 25 percent of a vehicle's front end strikes a five-foot tall barrier at 40 mph—is further evidence of the IIHS's commitment to vehicle safety.

Volkswagen is passionately committed to building the safest vehicles available to the public and has already begun to incorporate this latest knowledge into the design and engineering of our cars going forward.

Overall: Marginal

9.
Chevrolet Cruze

Structure: Poor

Restraints and kinematics: Marginal

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Good

In a statement, GM said: We recognize the importance of this new crash test criteria from IIHS because it reflects crash conditions that occur in real life and not just in a lab. The safety of our customers and vehicles is our highest priority at GM and ensuring our vehicles will perform safely in all conditions, including small overlap crashes, is something we're committed to.

There are many varied and complex measures to take for a vehicle to perform well in the new small overlap crash test, including vehicle structure and restraint enhancements, and they are unique to each vehicle. We are aggressively working to incorporate these into our models, including our small cars like the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze, where technically feasible.

The Sonic and Cruze models tested have already each been named 2013 Top Safety Picks by the IIHS. This is the second model year in a row for the Sonic and the third model year in a row for the Cruze to have this safety designation.

Overall: Poor

10.
Nissan Sentra

Structure: Poor

Restraints and kinematics: Marginal

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Acceptable

Lower leg and foot: Marginal

Nissan responded: Nissan is committed to vehicle safety and believes that consumers should have information about crash protection so they can make educated buying decisions. Nissan is proud of the 2013 Sentra's four-star NCAP overall safety rating and its performance in the IIHS moderate overlap, side and rear impact tests. The Sentra also received an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating for vehicles produced after June 2013.

As for the performance of the 2013 Sentra in the small overlap frontal test, Nissan will continue to review these and other results from the IIHS small overlap frontal test as we seek opportunities for improvement.

Overall: Poor

11.
Kia Soul

Structure: Poor

Restraints and kinematics: Poor

Head and neck: Good

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Good

Lower leg and foot: Marginal

Overall: Poor

12.
Kia Forte 2014

Structure: Poor

Restraints and kinematics: Poor

Head and neck: Acceptable

Chest: Good

Hip and thigh: Poor

Lower leg and foot: Marginal

Kia released a statement: Kia Motors America places a priority on vehicle safety, and all Kia vehicles sold in the United States meet or exceed all federal motor vehicle safety standards. Maximizing occupant protection is complex and involves a diverse range of variables, and Kia is proud of its strong safety record and the integrity of its products. The newly initiated "small overlap" crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) goes well beyond federal requirements and is only one of the many tests used to evaluate vehicles. The IIHS has recognized numerous Kia vehicles as "Top Safety Picks," including the 2013 Soul. Additionally, the 2013 Soul and 2014 Forte have received five-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for side impact protection. Kia will carefully evaluate the results of the new IIHS test procedure, along with the results of all other tests, as part of its commitment to continuous improvement in occupant protection.

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