Are Tiny, Gas-Saving Cars Unsafe? Today Mine Saved My Life

I rolled my Toyota Yaris three times this morning after hitting a six-foot-high dirt embankment at highway speed. I crawled out with no more than a bump on my head, seat belt burn, and a massively stiff neck. So, for all you small car safety-doubters out there, I’ve now got personal experience to say otherwise.


Inevitably, whenever we post about small electric cars, funky three-wheelers, or any other small fuel-efficient vehicle here at Gas 2.0, we get typical responses along the lines of “It may get 60 mpg, but that thing’s a death trap,” or “It’s nice to drive electric, but would you trust that car to your family?”

After this morning’s shenanigans, I can unequivocally say “Yes. Yes I would trust my family to a small fuel-efficient car, and I’m miraculously alive and mostly uninjured… so no, it’s not a death trap.”

My Yaris got 40 mpg and weighed less than half (35%) of a Chevy Suburban. From the outside it may not have looked very substantial, but it sure saved me on fuel costs. And, until today, I would have grudgingly agreed that it may not be as safe as driving a behemoth like the Suburban.

But now that my life has stopped flashing before my eyes, and I’ve had a chance to think, it is simply amazing that I walked away from that crash barely bleeding. I mean, just look at the remnants of my car.

In fact, after today, I think I fared better in my Yaris than I would have in a Suburban land yacht. Imagine how many times I would have flipped in the Suburban and the force of impact that would have come along with crashing a 6,447 pound car?

So, for everybody out there that’s using safety as an excuse to not go green, I must ask you to please take a look at that picture of my car and the wonder of how I walked away well enough to write this post the same day. Then try turning around and telling me that these upcoming small alternative cars aren’t safe simply because they’re small.

It’s more a matter of engineering, and, at least in Toyota’s case, those engineers are miracle-workers.

Editor’s note: This post was updated on October 22, at 8:00 am PST, to correct the curb weight of the Chevy Suburban from 8,600 lbs to 6,447 lbs. 8,600 lbs was the gross vehicle weight rating. 6,447 lbs is the weight of the heaviest Suburban — the 3/4 ton model with four wheel drive.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.