Front-end crash tests were recently conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Only six of 12 small cars performed at or above average in the front-end crash tests, and several popular models fared poorly. The two-door and four-door Honda Civic models earned the top rating of “good” in the safety evaluations. The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and the 2014 Scion tC got “acceptable” ratings. Popular models like the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic and the Volkswagen Beetle got “marginal” ratings, while the Nissan Sentra and the Kia Soul and 2014 Kia Forte were rated “poor.” The Toyota Corolla was not tested because a new version is due in the fall. The Corolla is the number 2 selling small car in America, behind the Civic.
The cars were rated for their performance in the “small overlap” test of crashes that cover only 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end. These year-old tests are forcing automakers to bolster the front-end structure of all cars in order to avoid bad publicity from poor performance.
The IIHS ratings are influential because many auto shoppers find them while researching vehicles on the web. The IIHS tests are more rigorous than the government’s full-width front crash test. IIHS says that in many vehicles, a crash affecting one-quarter of the front end misses the main structures designed to absorb the impact, and that those crashes account for nearly a quarter of the frontal collisions causing serious injuries or death to people sitting in the front seats.
The market for small cars is one of the fastest-growing in the United States. Americans have bought more than 1.8 million new small cars so far in 2013, a 12 percent increase from last year sales.