As car shoppers gravitate toward smaller vehicles, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has put the latest group through its smashing battery of tests. Think of their lab as the ultimate cage match. In this case, 13 entered, all were crushed, but six emerged with the coveted Top Safety Pick designation.
Despite that ratio, IIHS signals this as a significant improvement, noting that a few years ago, small cars struggled to earn Top Safety Pick status—and now the accolade is even harder to earn.
The winners include the 2012 Ford Focus, 2012 Honda Civic, 2011 Hyundai Elantra, 2011 Lexus CT 200h, 2011 Nissan Juke, and 2011 Toyota Prius. All earned the top rating of Good in the front, side, rollover, and rear-impact tests and have electronic stability control. As a coincidental added bonus, each model offers at least one variant that earns 40 mpg in the EPA highway fuel economy cycle.
“The list of cars with the best fuel economy now includes those with the highest crash test ratings in their class, too,” says David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research officer. “At a time of high gasoline prices, consumers have never had a bigger selection of small cars that earn Top Safety Pick.”
The Dodge Caliber, Honda CR-Z and Insight hybrids, Nissan Sentra and Versa,
Scion xD, and Suzuki SX4 also were rated. Shortcomings are as follows:
- Honda CR-Z: Acceptable rollover
- Nissan Versa: Acceptable side and rollover
- Scion xD: Acceptable front
- Nissan Sentra: Acceptable side, rollover, rear impact
- Suzuki SX4: Marginal rollover and rear impact
- Dodge Caliber: Marginal side, Acceptable rollover
Still, Zuby points out that small, lightweight cars “don’t protect their occupants as well as bigger, heavier ones. Even though fuel prices sometimes defy gravity, the laws of physics always are in effect for cars. That’s why it’s important that the crashworthiness designs of smaller cars be as good as possible. The new ratings demonstrate that small cars are much safer than they used to be.”
It is encouraging news that small cars are able to offer big-time protection, but this latest test also serves as a reminder that it is important to check the safety ratings before buying your next car, new or used. autoMedia has safety information within the car buyer’s guide.