A new study from the IIHS has put a kibosh on the small car parade, with all but one tiny car failing to get an “acceptable” rating in the new small-overlap crash test. While Americans are falling in love with these fuel efficient micro cars, these tiny urban commuters like the Fiat 500 and Honda Fit have failed an important new safety test, calling tiny car safety as a whole into question.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 11 of America’s smallest cars, the so-called “micro car” segment, and of these 11 only the Chevy Spark got an Acceptable rating. None of the cars received the vaunted Good rating, and only four of them, the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Kia Rio, and Toyota Yaris received a Marginal rating in the small overlap crash test. This test launches a car at 40 MPH at a barrier, hitting it with just one-quarter of the front bumper, concentrating the force of the impact into a small area and crushing the driver and passenger’s compartment.
The other six cars, including the aforementioned Honda Fit and Fiat 500, as well as the Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, Hyundai Accent, and Mitsubishi Mirage, all received a Poor rating in the offset crash test (though an all-new 2015 Honda Fit just debuted, it’s worth noting). As a group, micro cars fared worse than traditionally larger and heavier vehicles that Americans choose, and crashes similar to the small overlap test account for as much as a quarter of all injuries and fatalities.
The 2014 Toyota Prius recently lost its celebrated 5-star crash test rating after the recent model also suffered serious damage in the overlap crash test, though nothing else changed on the car. Micro cars are a fairly new experience to Americans, and while they offer both great fuel economy and value, it’s clear they need further improvement in the area of safety.
That goes doubly so for American micro cars, which have to compete with big rigs and massive SUVs for space on the road. Will the USA shake its attachment to big cars in favor of smaller, more efficient vehicles? Not as long as small cars continue to fail these safety tests in a big way.