The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently tested nine, small, 2009 model cars in front, side, and rear collisions. The cars tested were the BMW Mini Cooper B, Chevrolet HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Saturn Astra and Suzuki SX4, as well as the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe—the same car sold under two brand names. The Mini Cooper is a minicar—a class of vehicle smaller than the others in the test.
Among the nine small cars tested by IIHS, all received top marks for withstanding frontal crashes, but only two got top marks when hit from the side. Only the Ford Focus was given passing marks for rear-impact crashes. The results show how difficult it is for car designers and engineers to keep small cars light and strong enough to survive collisions with larger vehicles.
Auto makers have quickly upgraded small-car design in the past few years by strengthening vehicles protective framework and adding side airbags to shield passengers’ heads in cars that get smashed in the side, or “T-boned” by another vehicle.
One reason why small-car safety is better is that demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars has grown. Compact cars have risen by 24% through November while sales of larger cars fell 36%.