Small vehicles are cheaper and guzzle less fuel than bigger cars and trucks, but when it comes to safety you may want to think twice before buying one.
Many of the small cars sold in the U.S. performed poorly in an overlap front crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Only 1 minicar out of 11 passed the test with an acceptable rating. The Chevrolet Spark was the only minicar that passed the test along with four other crashworthiness evaluations.
The institute started conducting the test in 2012, replicating what happens when a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object, such as a tree or pole. This test is more difficult than tests conducted by the government or the IIHS' moderate overlap test, which test only head-on collisions.
"Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That's why it's even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection," says Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research. "Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren't performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash."
The two worst performing minicars were the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500 -- both had the steering column push back toward the driver and had intruding structures compromise driver safety.
The dummy in the Fit had its head slide off the airbag and hit instrument panel, whereas the doors on the 500 tore apart from its hinges after the collision, increasing the risk of the driver being partially or completely ejected form the car.
As compared to mini cars, small cars, which are slightly larger in size, fared better at the test. Five small cars received a good rating and five received an acceptable rating among the 17 that were tested.