How Safe is Your Small Car?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is at it again, totaling brand new cars in the interest of keeping consumers informed, and keeping carmakers’ feet to the fire when it comes to vehicle safety.

The latest round of IIHS testing ran a dozen 2013 model year “small cars” through the “small overlap” crash scenario, where the front of a vehicle strikes a five-foot tall barrier that is offset on the driver’s side. The vehicles are traveling 40 miles-per-hour at the time of impact, and a “dummy” (the IIHS’s word, not ours) is belted into the driver’s seat.

Vehicles were rated based on a number of factors, including structural integrity, restraint system performance, and ability to prevent or minimize car accident injuries.

You can check out the full results of the IIHS small overlap crash test here. But it looks like Honda owners can rest a little easier at night, as two- and four-door model Civics were the only cars to earn the top rating of “good.” But there may be some tossing and turning for owners of the Nissan Sentra, Kia Soul, and Kia Forte, all of which earned an overall rating of “poor.”

So, why judge cars based on how they perform in a “small overlap” crash test? IIHS explains in a press release announcing the results: “In many vehicles the impact at a 25 percent overlap misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy. That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver’s head outboard, away from the protection of the front airbag. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off of it, the head and chest are unprotected.”

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