US: mini cars mostly fail IIHS’s new frontal crash test image

Of 11 new minicars examined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 10 failed the trade group’s challenging new small overlap front test, the sort of crash common in real-world driving.

Mini cars such as the Fiat 500 and Honda Fit performed worse than any other vehicle segment in the frontal crash test that mimics what happens when a car hits another vehicle, utility pole or tree.

Of the 11 mini cars tested by IIHS, only one won an overall “acceptable” rating in the so-called small overlap front crash test: the Chevrolet Spark – said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage,” Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”

IIHS introduced the test in 2012 and said it is more difficult than head-on crash tests used by the U.S. government.

In the test, part of the car’s front end hit a 5-foot rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour. The vehicles were rated in three areas: structural integrity, the effectiveness of the restraints and potential injuries.

Every minicar, including the Spark, got a “poor” or “marginal” rating for structural integrity, which IIHS called “the most fundamental element of occupant protection.” These are the two worst ratings possible in this test.

As a result, the Spark is now the only minicar to earn the group’s coveted 2014 Top Safety Pick award. Several other models previously honored lose that endorsement after failing the new crash test which is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another car or an object like a utility pole or tree.