ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The latest U.S. test results show most new small cars can stand up to a head-on crash, but aren't as good when it comes to being struck in the side or rear end.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety checked out seven 2009 U.S. and Asian-made small cars and gave all of them its highest rating for frontal crashes.
"Automakers have made big improvements to small cars to better protect people in frontal crashes," said Joe Nolan, institute senior vice president, in a press release Wednesday. "They've also added stronger structures and standard head-protecting side airbags to help in side crashes, which are tougher on smaller, lighter cars."
Nolan called the results a marked improvement over 2006, which was the last model year tested by the Institute. Since then, side air bags became standard in all of the 2009 models that were used in the test. The tests involved impact with a barrier simulating the front end of a pickup truck or SUV.
Some of the 2009 vehicles tested well in side crashes as well as front, including the Pontiac Vibe, Suzuki SX4 and Toyota Matrix. The Ford Focus and Mini Cooper earned good ratings for rear-end crashes. Other models tested were the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, Hyundai Elantra and Saturn Astra.