WASHINGTON -- Only nine of the 23 subcompact cars tested in 5 mph crashes escaped damage in the simplest bumper tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported Wednesday.
The institute, a non-profit organization supported by insurance companies, said all 23 cars were damaged in other 5 mph tests with the greatest total damage sustained by the Yugo GV at $2,197.
The Yugo, manufactured in Yugoslavia, is the least expensive new car sold in the United States at the base sticker price of $3,990.
The cars that did not sustain damage when slammed into front and rear flat barriers were the Ford Escort, Mazda 323, Toyota Celica, Plymouth Colt, Chevrolet Chevette, Toyota Tercel, Toyota Corolla, Renault Alliance and Nissan 200SX.
But the institute reported that even these automobiles, which did the best in the group, were damaged when subjected to other 5 mph crashes that included different crash angles.
In fact, the Nissan 200SX that did well in the frontal and rear crashes performed relatively poorly by sustaining $1,476 in two other crashes.
The Subaru DL also did poorly sustaining a total of $2,048 in damage, the report said, followed by Isuzu I-Mark at $1,544 and Volkswagen Golf at $1,542.
The institute said damage estimates were prepared based on a labor rate of $20 per hour.
The federal government now requires that cars sustain no metal damage in a 2.5 mph crash, a minor parking lot-type accident. The standard was relaxed from the 5 mph requirement when President Reagan took office.
'On many cars, bumpers are not as good as they used to be,' said institute Director Brian O'Neill. 'That's because of the weaker federal standard.'