Host Of Small Cars Earn Positive Remarks In 2013 Crash Safety Tests
August 8, 2013

Host Of Small Cars Earn Positive Remarks In 2013 Crash Safety Tests

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Six out of 12 small cars recently earned positive ratings from the International Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) during their front-end crash tests.

Both the two and four door models of Honda's popular Civic earned a rating of "Good," the only car to do so in this year's test. The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Scion tC round out the rest of this year's winners of the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

This is the second year the IIHS has given out this award to car manufacturers for scoring either "Good" or "Acceptable" in the tests. Though these six cars performed well in the test, Chevrolet's Cruze and Sonic and the Volkswagen Beetle received a "marginal" rating, while the Kia Forte, Kia Soul and Nissan Sentra received a "poor" rating in their tests.

The IIHS decided to exempt the Toyota Corolla from tests this year as a new model is slated to arrive in the fall. The Corolla is the second most popular car in America behind the only car to have the "good" rating bestowed upon it this year, the Civic. Overall the IIHS says the small car category performed worse in their crash tests than their moderately priced midsize peers but better than small SUVs.

"The small cars with marginal or poor ratings had some of the same structural and restraint system issues as other models we've tested," explained David Zuby, the chief research officer for the IIHS.

"In the worst cases safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways with unstable steering columns and the dummy's head hit the instrument panel. Side curtain airbags didn't deploy or didn't provide enough forward coverage to make a difference. All of this adds up to marginal or poor protection in a small overlap crash."

IIHS's crash tests include a moderate overlap front crash test, small overlap front crash test and a side impact and rollover crash test. The IIHS also evaluates the seat and head restraints in the vehicle as well as the protection offered to passengers in the back seat. The small overlap crash test was added to last year's tests and simulates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or solid object. In its specific tests, the IIHS guides a car along at 40 miles per hour into a five-foot-tall barrier. Only 25 percent of the car strikes the barrier while a crash test dummy remains buckled in.

Though most cars have cages, restraints and other safeguards built in place to protect a driver from such a small overlap crash, the IIHS found some cars performed better than others in these tests. According to the Institute, when going through the 25 percent overlap test, the barrier will often collide with the car in an area where these safeguards are not in place or in a way where they do not effectively absorb the crash energy. Furthermore, these small cars often rolled over on their side during the tests, moving the driver's head away from the airbag.

The IIHS says this is precisely why the Beetle scored so poorly in their evaluation. When the Volkswagen struck the barrier, the steering column shifted some five inches to the right while the dummy moved opposite to the left. This meant the dummy barely touched the airbag while the seat belt had too much give and allowed the dummy to move forward an additional 13 inches.

In the Civics, however, the dummy was much more stationary during the crash. The IIHS said there was also very little intrusion into the cabin, leaving plenty of survivable space for the driver and passengers.


Image Below: The 2013 Honda Civic performs best in this year's crash safety tests. Credit: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety