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Itty Bitty Cars Can Have Huge Safety Issues

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On: Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 10:40AM | By: Karen Cook

Itty Bitty Cars Can Have Huge Safety Issues

Tiny cars are great on gas consumption, perfect for crowded cities, and the light weight is necessary for electric power. One place they fall short, so to speak, is in safety ratings, specifically in crash tests. This year saw a 70% drop in the makes and models chosen as top safety picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The reason for the drastic drop is a new test, developed in 2012 and is now a major part of the scoring in crash tests, called the “small overlap test,” and it’s a doozy to pass. Car manufacturers build the front ends of their vehicles with reinforced areas, the “crumple zone” (or "crush zone"), designed to take the brunt of the impact during a front end collision, thus protecting the passenger compartment which should result in fewer injuries. The new test focuses the impact on the driver’s front quarter, where the crumple zone provides very little support. When minicars plow into a barrier at 40mph the passenger area is seriously damaged and could collapse entirely. Not good for the people inside.

Several makes and models were subjected to this new test by the IIHS and only the Chevy Spark managed to get acceptable ratings, meaning the passengers sustained relatively minor injuries to all parts of the body. The Honda Fit and the Fiat 500 had the most issues mostly to the drivers left leg, thigh, and hip areas. The driver door of the 500 came off at the hinges which also opened the driver to injury by being ejected from the vehicle. The Fit and 500 were also the only vehicles which compromised the safety of the driver’s right leg also.

The 500 and Fit along with the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, and Toyota Yaris dropped out of the top safety pick lineup from last year. The Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mazda2, and Mitsubishi Mirage were also tested.

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