Small Cars Showing Big Improvements in Safety

Small cars may have become a big deal this year when gasoline prices broke $4 a gallon, but many car shoppers are still choosing to spend more at the pump to get the added safety a large car or truck provides. According to the latest round of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), they may not have to.

Of the seven small cars tested, including the Ford Focus and Suzuki SX4, all received the highest rating of “good” in frontal offset crashes, as did the one minicar in the test, the MINI Cooper. More impressive is the increase in scores across the board for side and rear impact crashes.

Overall, 11 of the 21 small cars rated by the IIHS have a side impact rating of “good.” That figure is up from 3 of 19 in 2006. The organization attributes the strong showing mainly to side airbags that are now standard equipment in all of the cars. More than half of the cars on the list also received “good” rear impact scores thanks to redesigned seats and head restraints, relatively easy solutions to a problem the IIHS says automakers haven’t paid enough attention to.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser is currently the only small car to earn the lowest rating of “poor” in both tests, which simulate being hit in the side by a truck traveling at 31 mph and struck in the rear by a vehicle going 20 mph.

Click here for photos and ratings from the latest IIHS tests.

Click here to search for a specific vehicle in the IIHS library.