Subcompact cars fare poorly in new crash tests

None of the 12 minicars tested got the highest rating of "good" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
AP Wire
Jan 22, 2014

The Chevrolet Spark was the only car that earned the second-highest rating of "acceptable." Six of the cars — including the segment's best-seller, the Nissan Versa — got the lowest rating of "poor."

All of the cars were from the 2013 or 2014 model years.

"Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That's why it's even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection," said Joe Nolan, IIHS's senior vice president for vehicle research.

The institute's small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, mimics what happens when a car's front corner collides with another vehicle or an object like a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test differs from the U.S. government's frontal crash test, in which a car strikes a rigid barrier head-on at 35 mph.

IIHS says hitting only part of the front end makes it harder for cars to manage the energy from a crash. In several of the subcompacts, the structures collapsed, which can exacerbate injuries because the air bags, seats and other parts get knocked out of position.

In the test of the Honda Fit, for example, the steering column pushed so far into the vehicle that the dummy's head slid off the air bag and hit the instrument panel. IIHS said the Fit was one of the worst performers in terms of potential injuries to the driver.

Honda responded that the 2015 Fit, which goes on sale in a few months, should earn a top score on the small offset test. The recently redesigned Honda Civic, which is one size up from the Fit, is among five small cars with "good" ratings on the test. A four-door Civic is around 300 pounds heavier and 18 inches longer than the current four-door Fit.

The current Fit does get top scores in the institute's other four tests, including measurements of roof strength and side impact protection.

IIHS said the Fiat 500 was also one of the worst performers. The crash force ripped the door hinges off the 500, causing it to fall open during the test.

Spokesman Eric Maybe said the Fiat 500 meets all government safety requirements and, like the Fit, gets "good" ratings in all four of the institute's other crash tests.

Cars with "marginal" ratings were the Kia Rio, Mazda2, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. Cars with "poor" ratings — in addition to the Fit, the Fiat 500 and the Versa — were the Toyota Prius C, Mitsubishi Mirage and Hyundai Accent.



Color me :o

Former Grandhavenite

I wonder if the long term solution to this problem will be more in the way of AI-based automatic collision detection and avoidance systems. It seems like this could be done much more easily for avoiding stationary objects than other vehicles. There's only so much you can do to make a small car withstand an impact, and there's simply no arguing with an object of much greater mass.


Lightweight body panels with tube frame around the occupants, crawl out through the windows like the Dukes of Hazzard YEEEEE HAAAAAA.

Grand Haven Happy

It always simply amazes me that people are so stupid as to buy the tiny death traps just to save a few dollars on fuel each month. What good does that saved few bucks gained do for you when you are DEAD! Even if not being killed, the injuries received in indentical accidents would be so much worse than if the occupants were in a REAL vehicle!

Then to realize that many parents buy these tiny death traps for their inexperienced new to driving children and then wonder why they slide around on wet or slippery roads and have serious accidents or worse. Narrow small dia tires with very little weight on each tire and they act like they're on grease. Go thru a few inches of snow? Ya right! Ever see what happens when a baseball is rolled or thrown at a rolling bowling ball? Try it! The bowling ball acts just like a bat when it hits the baseball over the fence and the bowling ball just keeps on rolling like nothing had even happened! Anyone want to be riding in that baseball???

And people wonder why we drive an over 7,000 lb crew cab, long box, diesel engine with decent fuel economy truck or our over 5,000 lb framed SUV? Slide into or run into us and your next of kin or family will learn why but it's just too late for you!


You apparently don't understand that we must by these econoboxes to combat global warming, which will kill us all, and as our patriotic duty to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, we need to ignore the fact that there has been no global warming for the past 15 years, and that our current regime, doing the bidding of its environmental extremist base, is doing everything it can to stop the production of oil on federal lands and to stop fracking on both public and private lands which would guarantee our independence from Mid East oil.

You should be ashamed to be trying to protect the lives of your family at the expense of Mother Earth - me too, since the wife and I both drive framed SUV's.


Don't you ever get tired of being a smug Jack***?

People get killed everyday of the week in SUV's too. The center of gravity in an SUV is higher than a normal car which makes them easier to roll. Also SUV drivers seem to think they're impervious to accidents because they have 4-wheel drive. Only problem with that line of thought is that when it's icy out there 4-wheel drive is no better than 2-wheel drive. Once you start sliding on ice, there is no traction to be had and you're just along for the ride. Overconfidence in their vehicle and their own skills is why you see them frequently on their roof, off the side of the road. In other words, they drive beyond their learned abilities.

The safety of the vehicle has less to do with it's size and more to do with the person piloting the vehicle. All you'd have to do to understand that little tidbit is look around you on a day like today, or read all the articles above this one.


Don't disagree, but think you'll agree if you do get into an accident, no matter the cause, you chances of survival are better in a heavier vehicle than an econobox.


Not quite... It all depends on how the car is designed. I have a brother in law who actually works for one of the big three doing just that...

This video shows a waste of a beautiful car, but notice what happens to the heavy hunk of steel compared to the newer lightweight car?

And SUV's often fare worse in side collisions and are much more prone to rolling over. They only accel in head-on collisions.

That being said, back when I owned my 2004 Grand Cherokee (refused to buy the newer model since they stopped using the 4L straight six and manual transfer case), I DID feel much safer in it than my current Fusion.

Some SUV's are safer than small cars, yet some small cars are much safer than some other SUV's. It isn't some government conspiracy, and bigger does not equal better in all cases.

The down side to 'feeling' safer is the other people on the road who also feel safer in their SUV and thus drive like total idiots. There were MANY of those people out today, doing 55mph and passing in the oncoming lanes even with ZERO visibility.

I do often miss the Jeep, but definitely do not miss filling it up... The Fusion has saved an absolute killing on gas.

Lets all just be glad there are none of these chinese knock-off SUV's in the US...


Ya know, one of the many things that I find so unendearing about you and your thought processes is that EVERYthing has to be black, or white, left or right, up or down, in or out.....there's never any room for variables. You make your proclamation and the rest of us are suppose to what? Just buy into it?

In many things and in particular things that move and impact other things, there are a ton of variables. You do know how many degrees a complete circle contains right? hint, it's more than 2! Same goes for just about any situation.....

If two cars hit the same tree at the same angle at the same speed there would still be large differences in the outcome. You have the weight to speed ratio for starters. Then there's other things you have no control over....what if your SUV airbag fails? What if some component that is suppose to protect you fails and contributes further to the degree of damage? There's a 100 different things that can impact the outcome of any collision

I drive a full-sized 1990 GMC pickup, which is about half the size of the behemoths being produced nowadays, but I'd put that old truck up against any modern day SUV for protection purposes. Center of gravity is lower for one thing.....You really don't need a semi-sized SUV to protect yourself. You need to learn how to drive for conditions, how to anticipate possible bad situations (that usually comes with age which I'm sure you have plenty of...) and if you can't anticipate them, at least be able to negotiate your way out of them by knowing in advance how your vehicle is going to react to sudden change.

The size of your vehicle does not gaurantee your absolute safety. A big car does not negate stupidity. About the only thing a larger car will gaurantee you is that it'll probably cost more per mile to get from point A to point B. If you think there's something manly and sexy about excessive consumption than knock yourself out, but stop with the stupid, flippant political rehashed comments for every freaking topic that comes up here. PLEASE!

That's all the time I got for this one. Did you ask that guys widow how she feels about her husbands murder yet? Now THAT'S a serious topic that nobody wants to talk about.

Tri-cities realist

It is delusional to think that a 1990 pickup truck would perform comparably to a vehicle made 20 or so years later. Advances in design make today's vehicles safer than those from the past, in addition to advances in airbag technology. See JLB's link to the YouTube video. The video shows how a 2009 vehicle performs much better than a 1959, despite giving up some mass. So today's cars, trucks, and SUV's are safer than older cars, but mass still matters. It's called momentum, the product of mass times velocity.


Well, the point I was trying to make, poorly I guess, was that with my smaller (what used to be full-size) truck, I will be able to get a reaction out of the truck quicker and negotiate better than you because I'm carrying considerably less mass than you are in your semi-styled pickup. I'll put the old girl up against any new truck for manuverablity any day. I've driven newer trucks, I've got a 2005 GMC too and I know for a fact that the 2005 is harder to manuver, harder to park and generally is less driver friendly when it comes to getting in and out of tight spots. It's bigger! It needs more room!

You're comparision between the 59 chevy and a new car, versus my '90 pickup and a new tank does not wash, sorry.

I'll try to be more clear on my point next time.


You should have stopped with the argument you and your wife drive SUV's for safety purposes. The rest of your comment makes me wonder if you haven't spun out on the ice recently.

People buy cars for all sorts of reasons - safety, styling, affordability, gas economy, environmental issues, power, comfort, etc. Many people buy cars for fuel economy, whether or not they believe in global warming or even have a concern about the environment. And then are some like my husband, who drives a full-size truck, is a strong environmental and global warming advocate (and a Republican) who wishes he could drive something with better gas mileage, but needs the truck for both business and recreational purposes.

Let's not divert from the issue of car safety by revving up the conversation with your prejudices and biases.


So, you believe that without all of the global warming hysteria and government interference in the market, there would be sufficient public demand for tiny, underpowered, unsafe death traps that the car companies would be producing them to meet the demand? Puhleeze!

The government is not pleased with the free choices of the American people - most popular vehicles 2013

1. Ford F. Series Pickup
2. Chevy Silverado
3. Toyota Camry
4. Honda Accord
5. Dodge Ram
6. Honda Civic
7. Nissan Altima
8. Honda CR-V
9. Toyota Corrolla
10. Ford Escape

Subcompacts didn't make it into the top 30 best sellers of 2013 - manufacturers make them only because they are forced to by government CAFE standards - they make these turkeys in order to continue to be able to sell the big popular vehicles. As a business person you should understand this.


F-series and the silverado are obviously in the top because they are a common base for fleet vehicles.

I do agree, vehicles like the Smart car are just stupid choices safety-wise, they just cannot have effective crumple zones based on their ultra-compact design. That said, I do see many smaller cars in that list, in fact, most of them are small, fuel efficient (by US standards; Europe has MUCH more efficient vehicles) cars.


Obama's 2010 new modern fuel-economy standards, the 1st in 20 years, has accomplished several important things.

* Greater fuel efficiency is driving growth in the US auto industry.

* The growth is creating job creation.

* US autos are now meeting the increased demand for more fuel efficient vehicles - in all categories. Ford and GM subcompact sales are leaving foreign dominance in their wake - the first time ever.

* In 2012, the US saved 124,000 barrels/day in gas consumption.


Neither the F-150 Nor the Silverado have been tested yet, they are both old designs, just refreshed. So just wait!
Don't mount the holier than thou pedestal yet!
Also, snow tires is where its at! Who cares about a "little" snow? The only problem I was having today was it was coming over the top of the hood!
Using your logic, why stop at a bowling all, why not go to an 80,000 pound semi? What is your little truck going to do when that big dog decides its his time at the dish? "REAL Vehicle"? There is no "big enough", there is always something bigger! If it is not another vehicle, it will be that concrete bridge abutment or that large oak tree! Remember one thing, these tests are done at 40 mph, not 70 or 80 mph! You hit a solid stationary object at 70mph, and there is not much that is going to prevent you from being "DEAD" as you say!
This small overlap test is brand new, and your beloved trucks have not been tested to it yet. Check out the IIHS web site, all the info is there. Its not in the Tribune's article because they are only after the sensationalism that sells papers!
So, yes, I do wonder why people drive 7000 lb trucks or 5000 lb SUVs that don't need them!

Former Grandhavenite

I hate the whole "arms race" mentality that you almost need to have when it comes to vehicle shopping. It is sad but true that it's more dangerous to drive a vehicle that's significantly smaller than the average vehicle on the road. If everyone out there is driving a Suburban, you don't want to be in a Cavalier. No sane person wants to be in a Cavalier anyway, but that's beside the point... If everyone out there is driving a dump truck, you don't want to be in the Suburban, etc.

I think over time we'll see the average vehicle size decrease, unless there's some major advances in battery technology or other alternative fuels. No matter what anyone thinks about climate change, renewable energy, etc it's just going to become a matter of economic necessity to drive something smaller.

Oh, and as for the eternal question of What Would Jesus Drive... He was a carpenter and had to transport a large crew of disciples, not to mention a fair share of loaves and fishes, so I'd say probably an extended cab 4x4 of some sort.


This is ludicrous! How big is safe enough? Even a full size F350 is no match for a semi truck in this state, they can weigh 80,000 pounds! Perhaps an M1A2 Abrahms Main Battle Tank? I think they come in at 63 Tons!
This is all about sensationalism! It concerns a new test that was implemented in 2012. The God like reverence bestowed on the Ford F-150 doesn't even come into play here because that vehicle has not been tested by the IIHS for the small overlap test. It is essentially a 2009 design so has not been tested to the new standard. Just wait!
The Honda Fit scored the same on the Moderate Overlap test as the F-150, "Good"!
The small overlap test is a new crash test that is going to be very difficult for any vehicle to get a "Good"! It involves only the structure of the vehicle directly in front of the front wheels where there is very little crush structure in new vehicles!
The OEM's will now have to move to new designs, as Honda has already stated for its 2015 edition of the Fit!
This article is just pablum for the masses! Keep buying those behemoths that suck gas, and make ginormous profits for the car companies.
I prefer to drive a vehicle that will be able to go around things I don't want to hit. Not an aircraft carrier that takes 10 miles to turn!
The biggest problem I see in vehicles today are all the automatic crap, taking the "responsibility" from the driver. One example is automatic headlights. As we probably all experienced today, the automatic system only turns the headlights on when it gets dark, not when they are in a raging blizzard! Individual driver responsibility, not mere passengers being taken for a ride, well maybe!


"The biggest problem I see in vehicles today are all the automatic crap, taking the "responsibility" from the driver.

Amen! If you can't even parallel park your car/truck then you probably should be riding the bus, or letting someone else drive.



I feel that ABS, ESC, and Traction Control are very good things when they are truly needed (I am amazed at how good the ESC keeps my car straight even if I wildly swing the steering wheel all around on snow/ice, in a safe, closed location of course).

The problem is, too many people take these systems for granted instead of simply seeing them as a driving aide. You quickly end up with people that have no clue how to turn on their headlights or wipers, or even worse yet, the people who totally rely on these systems, which do fail to work in certain conditions, driving 70mph on a sheet of ice and end up taking out several cars.

People are quickly losing the ability to regain control of their vehicle in emergency situations, and are also losing the willingness to drive right for conditions. They simply think the technology in the car will save them.

Everybody is in such a freaking rush these days. Gotta go shopping, gotta go to work, blah, blah, blah... They would rather risk losing their life instead of even thinking of being a couple minutes late, or, gasp!, leaving a few minutes early...

Grand Haven Happy

Not too smart are you GH55? After my nearly 40 years of working with automotive/component design, engineering, distruct and reliability testing and attending crash tests and buck crash tests, I'm very happy to inform you that you don't even have a clue!

You use the example of an F-150 and F-350 hitting or being hit by a semi-truck however not one mention of the light weight tiny death trap compact or subcompact involved in the same type scenario which would insure the occupants in the tiny tin can decorated with plastic wouldn't even have a snowball's chance. If only you knew a fraction of what you had spewed in your ramblings, I might have thought you had a possibility of being educatable. However, you have even eliminated that thought!


My point was that this article is completly biased against small cars. It makes no mention that this small overlap test, is brand new, implemented only in 2012, and the ever revered trucks have not been subjected to it yet!
I never said the small cars were safer than larger when it comes to impact protection! I said that this article is sensatioanlism at its best, slamming small cars because they did not pass a very specific, extremely difficult test, and that the trucks and larger SUVs have not even been subjected to that test becasue of the age of the designs!
Again, with your 40 years of experience, you should know that these tests are run at relatively slow speeds, not highway speeds. I don't care what you are driving if you hit a bridge abutment at 70mph! You very likely will not survive that regardless of Honda Fit or Ford F-350.
Its all about physics! If a big car makes you feel safe, go right ahead, spend it up! I prefer to buy something that is not a massive gas hog, can be driven so you can avoid accidents, and is affordable!
I drive with the intention of paying attention, observing what is going on around me, making sure my car is well maintained, equiped with snow tires in the winter, headlights on when there is inclement weather (not just darkness, so others can see me), and with the idea that others are out to get me! I think they call that defensive driving! I don't care what you are driving, be it Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Ford F-350 or a Hummer, if that guy hauling the big rolls of steel decides he is going to blast through that light that just turned red, and you happen to be in his cross hairs, you are going down! And I have never claimed otherwise! The entire premise of my comments were that this article is completely biased against small cars for a very specific test that larger vehicles have not even been tested to as yet!
So, GHH, back 'er down just a tad with the personal insults!

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