Of all the minicars recently tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, only the Chevrolet Spark received an acceptable rating in the organization’s small overlap front test.
Minicars, including the Spark, Honda Fit, Mazda2 and Fiat 500, were the worst performing category according to the Institute’s report which was released on January 22. In fact, none of the minicars tested received the non-profit organization’s highest rating of “acceptable.”
According to the report, the Honda Fit and Fiat 500 fared very poorly. In tests on both vehicles the structure with which they collided “seriously compromised the driver’s space, and the steering column was pushed back toward the driver.” The head of the crash test dummy seated in the Honda Fit’s driver’s seat briefly contacted the airbag before impacting the instrument panel. The hinges of the driver’s door on the Fiat 500 failed during the test and created a situation in which the driver could have been thrown from the vehicle.
The small overlap front test was introduced last year, and subjects vehicles to 40 m.p.h. impacts to the front driver’s side. The test is far more demanding than the Institute’s moderate overlap test because it bypasses the majority of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone.
The Institute says these types of collisions account for about a quarter of all serious injuries suffered during frontal crashes.
IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan said, “Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection. Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”
Automakers have successfully engineered vehicles in other size categories to perform well in the new test. In fact, the majority of vehicles in the small car category (vehicles which are slightly larger than minicars) performed much better in the test.
Although the Chevrolet Spark received an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test, the Institute said it did not perform as well as larger vehicles and warned, “Neither the Spark nor the other minicars in the test group offer front crash prevention, an increasingly common safety feature that can prevent or mitigate some kinds of frontal crashes.”