The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested a dozen of the smallest cars on American roads with the rigorous new small-overlap crash test and according to Automotive News, all but the Chevrolet Spark performed poorly in the test. The small-overlap test is supposed to recreate collisions when the front corner of one vehicle strikes an immobile object or another vehicle. The test is performed with the driver’s side of the vehicle’s front end hitting a barrier at 40 MPH. It is considered a more stringent test because the front crush zone is missed and much of the crash energy is directed in to the passenger compartment, sometimes causing it to collapse.
To earn the IIHS’ “top safety pick” award, the institute is now requiring vehicles to perform well on the offset test. Because of that change, a number of former top safety picks were dropped from that ranking.
The IIHS tested the Spark, Mazda2, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, 2014 Ford Fiesta, 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, Hyundai Accent, Fiat 500 and Honda Fit. The worst results were from the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500 with both of those cars’ passenger compartments being “seriously compromise[d]” by structures intruding into the safety cell. The Fiat 500’s driver side door was torn off of it’s hinges during the test, raising the possibility of people getting ejected from the car in the event of a serious collision. Though the Chevy Spark’s structure did intrude into the passenger compartment, that intrusion was limited to the upper parts of the passenger cell and the vehicle earned good injury measurements for all body regions of the crash dummies.
Most of the injuries recorded by the crash test dummies involved the driver’s left leg. However, in the Fiat 500, the Honda Fit and the Hyundai Accent there were also injuries higher up on the driver’s leg, with the left thigh or hip being affected. In the Fit and 500, there was also an increase risk of injury to the driver’s right leg as well.