Smart on IIHS Crash Tests: Sandbagged!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
smart on iihs crash tests sandbagged

Hi Robert – My name is Karah Street and I work for a PR firm that represents smart USA. I see that you have written about the new crash test conducted with the smart fortwo by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in which the smart for two was paired against a Mercedes C-Class. Two other cars were paired with larger vehicles from the same automaker (Honda Fit vs. Accord, and Toyota Yaris vs. Camry). What you may not know is that this test represents a type of crash that is rare and extreme — less than 1% of all accidents can compare to this type of test — and it is neither recognized nor required by federal safety regulators. By pitting “big vs. small,” this test seems to have one goal: to imply that bigger, heavier cars are always safer.

The smart fortwo meets or exceeds all federal government safety standards, including earning a five-star side crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the highest ratings for front and side crashes in the IIHS’s own barrier test. As I mentioned earlier, this test unfairly singles out only mini and micro cars, rather than testing vehicles in all segments, big and small.

This test also does not address where we are heading as a society, where people are choosing small yet safe cars for many reasons (fuel economy, smaller carbon footprint, low cost of ownership). smart USA has created a new website,, where smart drivers are sharing their own real-life stories of how smart’s advanced safety features helped keep them safe.

I also encourage you to speak with the following organizations for their take on the crash test: 1. Eli Hopson, Washington Representative for Clean Vehicles, Union of Concerned Scientists 2. John DeCicco, Senior Fellow – Automotive Strategies, Environmental Defense Fund 3. Dan Becker, Director, Safe Climate Campaign. For an official statement from smart USA, please visit or read an official blog by smart USA’s president, Dave Schembri. Please let me know if you need any other resources (images, video, etc) from me. Thank you for your time. Karah Street

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  • Fmaxwell Fmaxwell on Apr 17, 2009
    OK, I concede. How about this: the Smart convertible is a unique vehicle for those couldn’t cough up another couple thousand to buy a Miata. I'm at kind of an advantage here because I own both. Very different cars. The Miata is a stripped-down sports car. Way less legroom and headroom. And, way less visibility, both of the car and from the driver's seat. Mileage on the Miata is 21/28 vs. the smart's 34/41. The MSRP for the base smart fortwo cabrio is $16,990. The Miata similarly equipped is $26,180 (and the Miata still lacks a lot of stuff like heated leather seats, automatic wipers and headlights, ESC, etc.) I'll not be a jerk about it and nickel and dime it up, because we're already approaching $10K difference. The non-convertible smart is still very stupid. It’s completely eclipsed by a Honda Fit. So if I were deciding between the two, I should ignore the fact that the smart seats are more comfortable to me and that I like the smart's quirky looks and find the Honda unattractive? I should ignore the fact that the Honda Fit gets 28/35mpg vs. the smart fortwo's 33/41mpg? I'm supposed to look past the Fit's dinky doors that make entry and exit more difficult and the pillar that impedes my visibility to the side (I'm 6'2")? And, after all of that, I'm supposed to ignore the fact that the Fit Sport w. auto trans costs almost $4K more than the comparably equipped smart fortwo passion? The Fit is only better than the smart if you like it better (and the price difference doesn't bother you). I don't like it (much less like it better). I could tick off a list of features, capacities, etc. in some car showing it's advantages over a Fit, but that does not mean that it's a superior car or that it would be a better choice for you. The smart fortwo coupe is only a "stupid" choice if the buyer would have been happier with a different competing vehicle. You can't take the emotion out of car buying.

  • Fred Bauer Fred Bauer on Apr 23, 2010

    OK, I know this posting is over a year old, but... One of the comments was from someone who would rather have his Mustang over a smart. Well, recently there was a report of a ~60 MPH head-on collision between a Mustang (unknown flavor) and a smart ForTwo. The ForTwo driver opened the door, got out, and looked at the damage. The Mustang driver was unconscious, and left in an ambulance...

  • Arthur Dailey Any vehicle with a continental hump, even if vestigial, gets a thumbs up from me.
  • KOKing Actually a place called Sector111 in Temecula, CA was importing them for sale in the US starting around 2012. A friend had a shop right next door, and I recall seeing the very first one the owner imported for himself, and would bring it out to promote at various local events. Also shows this thing's been around for a while.
  • KevinB A $300 fine for me would be an "ouch". For someone else it may mean the electric bill doesn't get paid and there won't be enough gas to get to work.
  • SCE to AUX Historically, the Land Cruiser sold ~3000 units annually in the US for its last 15 years, so the answer is no.
  • Theflyersfan Oh boy - the sequential manual transmission. Otherwise known as "Your 16 year old driving stick the first time is smoother" transmission. I know automakers were trying new things out around this time and seeing what would stick (hint: the dual clutches won out), but even in testing, the Toyota engineers should have said いいえ、ジャンクです。(No. It's a piece of junk.) Is this seller going to get $8500? Doubt it. Way too much interior work is needed and it just looks worn out in there. St. Petersburg - salt air year round can do some wonders under the cover as well. But the exterior still looks good which makes me thing it was garage kept. So, for $8,500 - no chance. But for maybe $5,500 to $6,000 and the buyer doesn't mind some extra work to clean up the interior, maybe a decent top down sun down fun car. Just hope the transmission holds up.