By on January 23, 2014

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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 Newsall 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.

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70 Comments on “Chevy Spark Only Minicar to Pass IIHS Small-Overlap Crash Test...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’d hate to be in that crash.
    Top safety pick or not, weight matters.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      It is effectively a single car crash, weight is not a positive at all. Better structure, which may be heavier, would help. Weight for its own sake would only make the crash worse.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      “Weight Matters”

      Well, I get where you’re coming from, but in this instance, no. When you’re hitting a solid stationary object, where does the weight portion come into? Maybe even worse, if you have 5,000lbs of vehicle behind you, all that is still being pushed forward, is it not? I’m not a physicist though.

      Now, hitting another mobile or much smaller object, especially another car, sure. But running into a solidly mounted steel wall like in these test? You’re just putting more force into that wall with a heavier car.

    • 0 avatar
      Swedish

      yes weight matters and MORE weight can be a detriment in single vehicle crashes. More weight has to be supported by the safety cage whether in this Small Overlap or a rollover collision. The heaviest cars in a weight range (+/- 500 pounds) are not always the safest.

      • 0 avatar

        WHERE THE WEIGHT IS matters.

        If you have a 6.4-L HEMI iron block in front of you, hitting a stationary object isn’t the same as having a V12 behind you in a Lamborghini.

        A more massive vehicle (like a train) will devastate a less massive vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Unless that 6.4L HEMI comes through the firewall into your lap. Just sayin’

        • 0 avatar
          Swedish

          Generally the same model car with smaller engine option is considered safer in a frontal collision. Manufacturers often get away with shoehorning large engines into limited production variants of a model knowing the odds of the variant being tested are slim. A larger engine is more mass that has to be managed in a collision.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    I still want a Fiesta ST.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I’m eagerly awaiting the “object falls off a truck and through the windscreen” crash test when all the cars start passing the small overlap test. Maybe self driving cars with outward cameras and interior screens will be a reality at that point. Convertibles will have an upward facing camera and interior roof screen.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    Sometime I wonder if the IIHS only exists to justify higher insurance premiums on new cars. Once all the cars start getting “Good” ratings they introduce another test and say, “oh, well your car is no longer good, I guess we have to raise your premiums now”

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      In 40 years of paying for auto insurance, I’ve never had that happen.

      Because insurance companies want to avoid the large payouts associated with personal injury or death, their goals align with your best interests, regardless the reason behind their tests. Just like with airplanes, any incident you walk away from constitutes a good landing and by extension, design that minimizes probability of injury or death is a good thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I actually tried this less than two month ago. It’s what happens when you try to avoid a car coming into your lane, going the other way. But in real life both cars have rounded corners, and are a lot softer than a brick wall, so they ‘bounce off’ eachother instead of ‘sheering’ eachothers doors off. At roughly 50mph+, it still hurts like F though.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I view the IIHS tests as standardized tests that give the consumer some insight into how well competing cars will protect occupants in a collision. As all cars pass, the tests become more difficult to show a difference. There is no doubt that family cars have become safer as manufacturers try to get a “top safety pick” rating. If IIHS tests were imposed by the government, consumers would lose the option of buying some sports cars and convertibles.

    • 0 avatar
      steevkay

      Oh, they need justification to increase premiums now, eh? =)

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, the new Fit is due out shortly, and should ACE this test quite handily, as have all the other new Hondas. Meanwhile, try not to hit a full can of beans at highway speed in your current Fit.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    That doesn’t look safe at all!! I’ll take my old pickup truck, thanks

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Hopefully the “old pickup truck” you are talking about isn’t a 97-03 vintage F150. The scores on the moderate overlap crash were significantly worse than these small cars on the more stringent small overlap.

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/f-150/2001

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        Fast forward to the 2014 model year Chevy/GMC pickups:

        The real mismatch will be when either a Fiat 500 or Honda Fit does a head-on or off-set into a modern full size pick up.

        • 0 avatar
          Charliej

          Down in Alabama, an Accord and an F-150 hit head on. Two passengers in each. Everybody died. All that extra weight did nothing for the people in the F-150. In the real world, hitting another car or truck head on is a quick way to leave this world. Also, as long as there are tractor trailer rigs on the road, any vehicle is not safe.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Some safety measures, like stronger roofs, compromise mileage and change the weight balance to the detriment of safer handling, i.e., making already top heavy SUV’s even more so.

    In any event, I suspect the 2015 Fit will ace the test – until the marker is moved yet again.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Some safety measures, like stronger roofs, compromise mileage and change the weight balance to the detriment of safer handling”

      My understanding that is addressed by using higher strength steel that while the same weight is much stronger.

  • avatar
    radimus

    We have now reached the point in the game where the IIHS has to start making stuff up as an attempt to justify it’s existence and usefulness.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Jack Baruth…

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        My accident was, effectively, a T-bone. If you look at the pictures, the front bumper isn’t scratched.

        Had I been driving a Spark, Derek would be in charge now, I think :)

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Spark: youtube.com/watch?v=2VllPUYZ0yY

          Crown Vic: youtube.com/watch?v=P05VZPC_hNs

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          @ Jack..Put it down to your racing experience. You know better than most of us, exactly what happens to the human body in a crash.

          Yeah! The big Ford saved your life. However your guy that traded being “being cool” or hip, and counting your nickels and dimes” for practicality and safety.

          I guess it was a good trade.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          Jack,

          I’m talking about the lack of side curtain airbags and stability control, which are two of the things pushed by the IIHS that the Towncar didn’t have.

          Big picture, I think too many of the B&B think accidents are things that happen when you’re racing around, some thing attention and skills can prevent. When the reality is often something that occurs out of the blue, in a split second, that no human could have avoided.

          Well, a stability control computer could…. just not any human.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            Agreed on the side curtain airbags. I’d mail fifty thousand bucks into the past if a side curtain airbag could have magically popped out of the Townie at the point of impact :)

            I think most impacts today happen at intersections, usually moving-car-into-stopped-car.

            I’m trying to think if I ever saw the DSC light flash during “normal driving” in any of the cars I had that had it. I can’t recall it happening offhand but I’m sure that at some point during the years (2001-2009) where my daily driver had stability control, that it must have kicked in during a non-screwing-around situation.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know I have Doc Brown’s number here somewhere…

  • avatar
    Caboose

    “Introducing the IIHS 10-pin test, wherein the car is launched, Top Gear-style, from a giant air-gun into a group of other cars that have been stood up on their noses. Your new insurance premium will be inversely proportional to the number of standing cars your car knocks over.

    “The 10-pin test is based on sound accident research and statistical analysis, which indicates that over 93% of all occupants of cars launched from giant compressed-air guns sustain catastrophic injuries. These new data also suggest a strong correlation between driving near docks or piers and being accidentally launched from giant potato guns into the water. Those will be measured with the “high arc” version of the 10-pin test.

    The “low arc” test will measure crash-worthiness when landing hard against the pavement after “catching air” during a car chase. We expect these data to be especially relevant to drivers and insurers in coastal cities, especially New York and San Francisco. Our historical/regression analysis of recent crash film footage shows that drivers in those cities are $2,465% more likely to be launched into the water from an inadvertent air gun off a pier and some 5,283% more likely to strike the road surface bitchingly hard after being launched over a hill, both during car chases.

    The IIHS’s initial findings suggest should consider installing at least 2,500 lbs. of downforce aero on most models and that governments should take steps to prevent cars from being shot with film.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Thanks, but I’ll wait for the findings from the trebuchet test.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      We all know that an Orange ’69 Dodge Charger will ace all these tests, we even have filmed evidence :)
      (just don’t watch the ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘outtakes’, they are just a part of some conspiracy )

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I wonder how much it cost them to total a brand-new car in practically every episode. Obviously it was less than they made overall, but…still….

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I’ve heard estimates of up to 300 Chargers were used,and most ended up damaged in some way, over the whole series,and that’s not including the numerous cop cars destroyed. Given that at the time a ’69 Charger was 10-15 years old, I guess hunting them down and repainting all of them was more expensive.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            There was a shop in Burbank on San Fernando Road that only made these cars and the lot was always full of them , nice ones , junkers and recently crashed ones .

            Pretty much every GearHead in Los Angeles drove by at least once to have a look , I was working nearby when the TV show was in production .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The crash improved the styling dramatically.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Chevy Spark Only Minicar to Pass IIHS Small-Overlap Crash Test”

    Go Daewoo. I also find it ironic the BMW Mini could not pass the Minicar small overlap crash test.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The MINI wasn’t one of the 11 tested.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thx for the info.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        They also left out the smart car, which would have likely aced the test in contradiction of the IIHS party line.

        The tests for trucks and large SUVs should be, um, interesting.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          The Smart would have failed…horrifically. The IIHS did three crash tests of A and B segment cars into their manufacturer C and D segment cousins a few years ago. This was to highlight the disparity in design even within the same manufacturer product lines.

          A Honda Fit into a Honda Accord

          A Toyota Camry into a Toyota Yaris

          A smart4two into a Mercedes C-class.

          The test was an offset frontal collision at 40 MPH. This would be a slightly easier crash then going to an solid, immovable object due to Newtonian laws. The impact is shared across both platforms. Mythbusters covered the two vehicles colliding at 40 MPH each is not the same as one of those vehicles hitting a solid object at 80 MPH – it would be the same as the solid object crash at 40 MPH (if that wasn’t the case, the IIHS test into a solid object should be done at 20 MPH to show 40 MPH damage – if you follow).

          In all three of the tests, the conclusion was the driver would be killed or badly injured.

          youtube dot com / watch?v=sKSPxQjPOm0

          The most horrific video to watch is the Camry vs. Yaris (do a search). The Camry basically slices through the Yaris to the driver side door – the crash test dummy’s head actually hits the hood of the Camry as the safety cage completely collapses.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I wonder how the Daewood Sonic and Cruz compared to their juvenile deliquent Spark, in a crash test.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Sonic: youtube.com/watch?v=a0mdvWnFaeE

        Cruze: youtube.com/watch?v=tv2CX91Ai4M

        Malibu: youtube.com/watch?v=SkQA3tHFgFI

      • 0 avatar
        Wraith

        While the Spark earned an Acceptable overall rating in the small front overlap test, the Sonic and Cruze only earned a Marginal overall rating in the same test.

        All three earned Good overall in the other four tests (moderate overlap front; side; roof strength; head restraints and seats).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Evidently I didn’t have permission to edit my previous comment… I’d also like to know how the dummy’s hips and legs are doing. Another few feet of car in front of him looks like it would have made the world of difference.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Depends on what you bought. Some midsize sedans did well, others not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      28-Cars-Later My guess even an extra foot of crumple zone would help.

      The problem with this off-set test is that it occurs outside of the engine cradle structure.

      The front suspension isn’t at its best in dealing with a horizontal shear force. After which point there isn’t much space for the front wheel to go rearward – because the wheel well is the beginning of the passenger compartment in a small B-segment car.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    CAFE fanatics “Make the car smaller, lighter.” IIHS “Too small, too light. Do it again.”

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Sure, I favor a trade of some efficiency for some additional safety.

      But its more than just too light. The body structure has to be redesigned to address new accident scenarios while not losing ground on already ‘solved’ scenarios. I’m not sure that always means more weight rather than changes in built in weak areas to shunt collision energy away from the passenger compartment. Chevy Spark passes with a base weight 2269 to 2368 lbs vs Toyota Yaris a fails with base weight 2318 lbs – both found from a less than exhaustive google search.

      IIHS has accident statistics and can identify safety issues that can be realistically addressed.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        From the source article:

        “Consumers should remember that the Spark, while offering more small overlap protection than other minicars, weighs less than 2,500 pounds and doesn’t protect as well as a larger and heavier vehicle with a comparable rating’

        IIHS seems to actually be saying “too small, too light…”

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          I’ll credit them with more nuance than that, but tempered by lawyerly concern to then state the obvious. Any size car you get, safety within class should matter. As JB said above, he’d mail 50 large to the past if a side curtain airbag could have popped out of the TC…..

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If I was in that thing I’d be suffocating on the airbags after the crash.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I don’t get the hate about this test. The test replicates what would seem to be a pretty common scenario — a not quite fully head-on collision. If you’re driving on a city street where the speed limit is 30 mph (not uncommon), the combined speed of the colliding vehicles in a head-on is 60 mph, 20 mph faster than this test. Granted, unlike this test involving a solid, immovable barrier, the other car will absorb some of the energy of the crash, but still I don’t see this test as at all unrealistic.

    The fact that it presents a more difficult engineering challenge for the manufacturer is irrelevant.

    The severity of JB’s crash still surprises me. The forward speed of his car, turned sideways, could not have been high at all; so most of the energy of the crash came from the other car which, I would think, wouldn’t be traveling all that fast, given the conditions. And my own experience in being sort of T-boned on a snowy road (the other car struck just forward of the rear wheel of my vehicle) also makes me wonder why JB’s car didn’t absorb more of the crash energy by sliding. In my case, my vehicle was a relatively heavy Toyota Previa mini van; and the other vehicle was a Honda Civic. But my car half-spun in response to the impact . . . and the car was still sort of drivable afterwards. No one was injured; and, I think both cars were repairable.

    • 0 avatar
      Oodie

      “Granted, unlike this test involving a solid, immovable barrier, the other car will absorb some of the energy of the crash, but still I don’t see this test as at all unrealistic.”

      That is the issue, though, isn’t it? At least from my perspective…. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for my car to ace this test (doubt it), but I’m sure there is some to-be-designed test that it would fail. At some point, I think you just have to accept the fact that you may get injured (even badly) in a really severe accident. Seems to me this test is a pretty severe & demanding accident on a vehicle’s structure. This is all coming from a guy who is more safety-focused than most when it comes to buying a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Without knowing all the circumstances of Jack accident, I do think the Lincolns weight worked against it in this case. It’s just to much mass to be able to change direction in a crash, and will keep going until it absorbs the force instead. Adn btw,with two cars going 30mph into each other there is no ‘combined’ speed, it will be just like hitting a stationary object that doesn’t absorb the force at 30mph.
      Also, having tried this exact way of crashing (small overlap) less than two months ago, I can confirm that cars crumble and bounce off each other a lot more than a brick- or steel-wall does, so it’s not as severe as the test video(even at 50mph), even if I still can’t recommend anyone to try it. Both cars were totalled beyond all economical repair, but we all walked away more or less unharmed.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      ” Granted, unlike this test involving a solid, immovable barrier, the other car will absorb some of the energy of the crash, but still I don’t see this test as at all unrealistic.”

      That’s huge, though.

      With both sides being movable and deformable, each car can push (and *rotate*) the other rather than smashing into an essentially immobile-and-undeformable object that it has to break like a wave against.

      That absorbs or redirects an immense amount of the force, compared to a static impact test.

      Static offset impacts at 40mph are, fortunately, *quite* rare – and I’d rather be in a car-to-car impact at 60mph delta-v.

      (And far rather be in neither!)

  • avatar
    Swedish

    25 PERCENT of Deaths occurring from Frontal Collisions are due to Small Overlap Frontal Collisions. Yes this test is relevant.

  • avatar
    jmo

    And, can I add, I love how all the B&B rant about how heavy cars have become and how thick the A pillars are. But, they rant even more when a car fails a crash test.

    I just don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I think it’s okay to want some innovative thinking from the auto industry, to want a car that is safe, aesthetically pleasant, and not overly heavy. That’s why aerogels and things like that exist. .,

      Sometimes it can be as simple (and expensive) as putting the CAD through another thousand iterations.

      If people don’t ask for something, they won’t get it. Given the choice, most of the OEMs would prefer to put last year’s car out again this year, in different colors.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        CAD, actually CAE, serves two purposes. Even though it’s expensive, its still cheaper than prototype fabbing a number of alternatives bits and pieces to weld up into a vehicle for testing. Allows you to narrow the range alternatives some. Second, it can help visualize whats happening to the parts you can’t see in crash testing. And if you are diligent you can backtrack an incident to make sure that you properly simulate what actually happened. The most widely used program for quick dynamic events is LS-DYNA. DYNA was created at Livermore National Labs to, among other things, help model the flatware for the Last Supper, aka, weapon ignition. Car crashes are slow events by comparison as weapon significant time is in nanoseconds, not milliseconds(light travels only one foot in a nanosecond.) It is expensive to do because the program and its competitors still like relatively itty-bitty time step solutions for slower events. I’ve used it to model a range of, uh, events. Its a good example of swords to plowshares – still used for the swords though.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s worth noting that Volvo’s cars—which all pass the small overlap test with flying colors—seem to shear off the affected wheel.

    Also, what’s up with Toyota? Even the 2014 Highlander, which is quite a large vehicle, only scored an “Acceptable” rating for this test.

    And everyone’s favorite compact car, the 2014 Mazda3, did remarkably well, so that’s good.

    • 0 avatar
      steevkay

      Interesting. So what I infer from this is that Volvos don’t have other structures intruding into the passenger compartment as much as these other cars.

      I wonder if other manufacturers have noted this; if I’m in a bad accident, I won’t car if my car lost its wheel, but I will care if my leg is broken.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So the Chevy Spark, albeit a penalty box on wheels like every other A-segment car available in the United States, is a good penalty box on wheels and the only one that can provide real protection in a real world, severe off-set crash.

    In other news, Hell froze over today with the news that General Motors is actually building decent small cars like the Spark, Sonic, Encore, Cruse and Verano. Satan was quoted saying, “what the Hell happened up there,” at the sudden plunge of temperatures. The Dark Lord has ordered a crack team of demons to investigate this alternate plane cooling, that some theorize has been caused by excess CO2 emissions from the fire and brimstone pits that run unabated in Hell, others are more skeptical…


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