No Big Surprise: Micro Cars Don’t Stack Up in Crash Worthiness

By David S. Fried

The micro car has its appeal: fuel efficient, compact, even stylish.   But it should come as no surprise that these compact, light-weight vehicles simply don’t make the grade when it comes to crash worthiness.   In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that of the 11 model-year 2013 and 2014 microcars and subcompacts evaluated, only one – the Chevrolet Spark – earned an acceptable rating in the challenging “small overlap front crash test.”The 10 others in the group earned marginal and poor scores, the two lowest ratings. “Minicars are the worst performing group so far in this test,” IIHS said in a statement.

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object. In the test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour. This test was introduced in 2012 and is a more difficult test than the head-on collision test because the vehicles front-end crush zone is bypassed. As a result, the test measures how the vehicle manages crash energy and how well the occupant compartment withstands possible collapse. The small, lightweight vehicles are at a serious disadvantage to even the next size up vehicle. One reason is that the structures of these vehicles, the main component measuring passenger protection, all rate poorly. When the structure of the vehicle rates poorly, the passenger compartment is at a higher risk of collapse upon impact. That higher risk of collapse also means that airbags, restraints and seats get knocked out of position, all of which increase the risk and severity of injury.

The micro has its use and may be a wise choice. But consider when you choose a micro: are you trading safety for fuel efficiency?   Before buying in, educate yourself on the safety features each provide and how they stack up to other small car categories with equal or better appeal. To understand more about the crash tests and the safety of these micro cars, go to: http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2014/01/iihs-chevrolet-spark-safest-microcar.html

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