Mini Cars Offer Little Protection: IIHS

They’re cheap to fill up and easy to park, but it’s hard for popular micro or mini-cars to protect passengers when they crash.

Mini cars like Smart cars perform poorly during collisions, collision experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found during recent testing. Their tests of three mini car models show that they’re no match for even mid-size cars during frontal collisions. Their findings match crash statistics: the death rate in mini-car crashes is almost double that of large cars.

 “Minicars as a group do a comparatively poor job of protecting people in crashes, simply because they’re smaller and lighter,” says Adrian Lund, the institute’s vice president. But with less distance from the front of a small car to its passengers to absorb impact, the odds of injury are higher.

During the IIHS tests, the institute pitted 2009 Honda Fit,  Smart Fortwo and  Toyota Yaris models against the Honda Accord, the Mercedes C class and a Toyota Camry respectively. The first test—with the Honda Fit—showed a high risk of leg injuries as well as extensive “intrusion” into the passenger compartment. The collision between the Mercedes and the Smart Fortwo sent the smart car airborne, and high probability of head and leg injuries. The test between the two Toyotas, meanwhile, showed a likelihood of neck and leg injuries to the minicar driver. Overall, all the mini models earned a poor rating.

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