Mini Cars Can Mean Big Bills, According to Crash Test

damage costs

Mini cars may be heralded for their low price and their environmental friendliness, but according to a new study, the small vehicles performed poorly in low-speed crash tests.

Micro cars fit in small parking spaces and come with small price tags and fuel bills. But they can sustain big damage in a collision and not so mini repair bills are the result.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashed micro cars into a barrier at just 3 to 6 miles per hour to test how their bumpers would protect them.

VIDEO: Mini Cars Can Mean Big Bills, According to Crash Test
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"The bumper doesn't play a huge role in more severe crashes," IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan said. "You can be sure in low speed collisions these vehicles are going to have a lot of damage that's unnecessary."

But not one of the seven vehicles tested received a top rating of good, while five were rated as poor. Only one received a rating of acceptable.

"This is a very low-speed event. It's sort of a fast walking speed and we've got cars with $3,700 of damage in a fast walking speed collision and that's huge," Nolan said.

Part of the problem is that little cars have lower bumpers than other vehicles, he said. The mini cars' bumpers, which are supposed to bump into the bumper of the other car and protect the rest of the vehicle, instead slid under the other bumper, causing major damage.

These are the first bumper test results released under a new IIHS ratings protocol that is based on averaged repair costs and weighted to reflect real-world damage patterns.

Crash Test Results

Of the vehicles tested, the Kia Rio was the poorest performer. According to IIHS, the car did worse than most other small and midsize cars and minivans the group tested.

The Rio mini car racked up about $3,700 damage in the full-front test alone. That's about 30 percent of its purchase price.

The vehicle sustained more than $9,000 worth of damage overall in the series of four tests performed by the IIHS.

The Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Mini Cooper also earned poor ratings for bumper performance.

The Honda Fit needed $3,648 worth of repairs after just one test, which is a quarter of the car's purchase price.

It was the smallest car in the group, the Smart ForTwo, which fared the best overall in the crash tests. The IIHS gave the vehicle its second highest rating of acceptable because it is made of plastic body parts that resist dents. Its body parts are also inexpensive to replace because they are prepainted and come in small sections.

The Smart ForTwo had $3,281 worth of total damage in the four tests.

The Chevrolet Aveo was the next best with $4,490 in total damage.

IIHS said it would like to see damage of no more than $500 after a slow-speed fender bender. That's the cost of most insurance deductibles.

The Companies' Responses

Kia Motors said the IIHS's tests focused on repair costs, whereas Kia focuses on passenger safety, offering three kinds of airbags, front and rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring systems plus other safety features all as standard equipment.

Honda said its own 5 mph tests resulted in no body damage and only minimal bumper damage.

The other automakers that responded to ABC News' request for comment all said their vehicles meet or exceed every federal safety standard.

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