Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published its findings in a study of death rates in accidents over 3 years for occupants of vehicle models from the 2011 model year. Proving that sometimes size really does matter, the three deadliest cars in the study were all subcompact hatchbacks built by Asian manufacturers.
The Kia Rio topped the list at 149 fatalities per one million registered vehicles, followed by the Nissan Versa at 130 deaths and the Hyundai Accent at 120. The three vehicles have much in common: All three are small hatchbacks weighing about 2,500 lbs. or less. All three have the same fuel economy-28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway. The Accent and Versa are essentially the same vehicle, Hyundai having acquired Kia in 1998. All three were under $16,000 new. All three have front-wheel drive.
Interestingly, while one might expect sports cars to top a list of the most dangerous cars, none of these are high-performance cars likely to be seen racing on the highway-the Versa is the most powerful of the three with a 1.8 liter, 122 horsepower engine, and makes 0-60 in barely under 9 seconds. Rather, like the Chevy Corvair and the Ford Pinto of yesteryear, the most dangerous cars to drive are the smallest and slowest.
The study also showed a record nine models with zero fatalities during the three-year study period. Distinct from the most dangerous cars, six of these nine vehicles were SUVs-the Kia Sorento, Lexus RX 350, Mercedez-Benz GL-Class, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sequoia, and Volvo XC90. Rounding out the nine were a minivan, the Honda Odyssey, and two all-wheel-drive sedans, the Audi A4 and the Subaru Legacy.
Fortunately, highway fatalities overall have been on the decline. However, with such a disparity between the safest and most dangerous vehicles, a consumer’s choice in what he or she drives can still have a big impact on safety.