Small cars challenged by crash test

Mini Countryman and Chevrolet Volt fare best in latest round of crash tests

Published: July 31, 2014, 2:00 PM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:14 PM

2014 Chevrolet Volt Small-Overlap Crash Test

Out of 12 small cars recently subjected to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small-overlap front crash test, just one achieved a "good" rating – the Mini Countryman.

It joins the Honda Civic Coupe and Sedan, Subaru Crosstrek, Impreza and WRX, and new Volkswagen Golf and GTI as the only small cars, of 32 tested to date, to earn a "good" rating in that test.

Only half of the 12 models evaluated in this latest round of testing earned an "acceptable" or better rating, bringing the total number to do so to 19. That leaves 13 small cars with a "marginal" or "poor" rating.

In the small-overlap frontal test, a vehicle traveling at 64 km/h strikes a 1.5-metre-tall rigid barrier with 25% of the total width of the vehicle, on the driver's side. The Institute added the small overlap evaluation to its testing lineup in 2012 to simulate a collision with another vehicle or object, such as a tree, on the very front corner of the vehicle.

It's a particularly tough test because it concentrates the crash forces on the outer edge of the vehicle's crush zone, acting directly on the front wheel, suspension system and firewall.

It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries, explains the IIHS.

To earn an overall Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, a vehicle must achieve a "good" rating in four of six IIHS evaluation categories, including at least an "acceptable" rating in the small-overlap test.

On that basis, of the 12 small cars tested most recently, only the Chevrolet Volt achieved a Top Safety Pick rating – even though it didn't earn a "good" rating in the small-overlap test.

Even though it did earn a "good" rating in the small-overlap test, the Mini Countryman did not achieve a Top Safety Pick rating because it did not satisfy all the other criteria.

More information on the IIHS and its rating systems, as well as ratings for specific vehicles, is available at