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What small cars are safest?

Six new small cars earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+ crash test ratings

Published: August 9, 2013, 6:00 AM

IIHS Small Overlap Crash Test - 2013 Honda Civic

The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released crash-test data on 12 small cars recently subjected to the organization's small-overlap frontal crash test.

Six of the 12 models evaluated received a "good" or "acceptable" rating in the tests, thus qualifying them for the IIHS's Top Safety Pick+ status.

The Honda Civic sedan and coupe were the only small cars to earn the top rating of "good" in the test. IIHS evaluated the Civics earlier in the year and released those results in March.

The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and 2014 Scion tC earned "acceptable" ratings in the test, also giving them Top Safety Pick+ status.

The Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic, and Volkswagen Beetle received a "marginal" rating in the small offset test, while the Kia Forte and Soul and Nissan's 2013 Sentra got a "poor" rating, because of body and instrument panel intrusion.

All six garnered a Top Safety Pick rating (without the Plus), however, because they earned a "good score" in front, side, rollover and rear impact tests.

The Scion tC and Kia Forte were 2014 models; All the rest were 2013 model year. The 2013 Toyota Corolla was not tested because introduction of an all-new model is imminent.

The Institute introduced the Plus award in 2012 to recognize models that achieve "good" or "acceptable" performance in the small-overlap test as well as "good" ratings in each of four other criteria – moderate overlap front crash, side impact and rollover tests, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

The IIHS added the small-overlap front test to its battery of vehicle evaluations last year to simulate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole.

In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 1.5-metre-high rigid barrier at 64 km/h with a 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy belted in the driver seat.

It is considered to be an extremely severe crash mode. All of the IIHS test modes are more demanding than those mandated by the U.S. and Canadian governments to satisfy their respective Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (MVSS).

Small cars were the fourth group of vehicles to be tested by the IIHS, along with mid-size luxury cars, mid-size cars and small SUVs. Results for minicars will be released later this year.

As a group, small cars fared worse than their moderately-priced, mid-size counterparts in the same test but better overall than small CUV/SUVs.