Ford Fiesta Comes In Dead Last in Industry's Grimmest Ranking

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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ford fiesta comes in dead last in industry s grimmest ranking

Every three years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks new vehicles in terms of deaths incurred by their occupants in roadway collisions. The most recent tabulations cover the 2015-2018 time frame (focusing on 2017 and equivalent earlier models), and a domestic subcompact that proved quite popular right up until the end of its North American lifespan has the ignoble duty of bringing up the rear of the pack.

On the other side of the issue, one large American SUV placed first in the list of vehicles you’ll want to find yourself in when metal meets metal. One shouldn’t be surprised that small car nameplates proliferate among the list of losers, with bigger models proving better at absorbing blows.

By any measure, four-door “mini” cars (subcompact) featured the worst death rate per 1 million registration years of all automotive segments. Same when ranked by 10 billion miles traveled. Subcompact cars showed 108 deaths per million registration years, far outpacing the death rate among compact cars (62) and midsize (43).

Midsize luxury cars returned a rate of 22 deaths per million registration years, with full-size luxo-barges came in at just 19. Sports cars? A significantly higher 51. A wide variation in terms of safety, for sure, but between these segments there’s great variations in standard and available safety equipment, product intent, and mass. Not surprisingly, going bigger in mainstream segments appears to have an immediate impact on the likelihood of staying alive during a collision.

Similarly, moving from mainstream to premium also lowered the death burden, which says as much about a model’s construction as it does about the type of person most likely to be found behind the wheel.

“Very large” four-wheel drive SUVs returned a death rate of 7, with premium 4WD full-sizers pegged at 5. The ubiquitous full-size pickup, now popular as a family sedan replacement, saw a death rate per million registered vehicle years of 26 in 4WD guise. Two-wheel drive models ranked worse at 38. Interestingly, midsize pickups (classified as “small” in the IIHS ranking) showed a death rate of 24, lower than that of the safest full-sizers.

While many small cars are safe in their own right, things change when it isn’t a fair fight. Given the number of large trucks and SUVs on the road, the chance of colliding with a much larger vehicle — and a high-riding one, at that — are greater than ever.

The vehicle you’ll want to be in regardless of collision type seems to the the GMC Yukon XL 1500 4WD, which returned a death rate of zero. It wasn’t alone in that regard, either. Joining it are the likes of the Infiniti QX60 2WD, Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Cayenne, and Lexus NX 200t.

How many fatal collisions a model racks up often depends heavily on the number of miles driven, where those miles are driven, who’s likely to be doing the driving, and under what conditions, rather than the actual vehicle structure and presence of on-board safety aids. This explains why the short-ranged, previous-generation Nissan Leaf ranked near the top of the list (5 deaths per million vehicle years) for the 2015-2018 time frame. The Leaf was less likely to be found on high-speed inter-urban routes or in wintry weather.

Interestingly, the Volkswagen Golf ranked even higher, despite its usage in all regions of the U.S. and in all weather conditions. It returned a death rate of zero.

“The Golf’s results are particularly remarkable, considering that the 2014 version was among the worst performers, with a death rate of 63 per million vehicle years, prior to a redesign for the 2015 model year,” the IIHS stated.

As for the defunct Ford Fiesta, no one did it worse. The popular subcompact — which, it’s worth noting, boasted more youthful and sporting appeal than its rivals — ranked last with a death rate of 141, with the Hyundai Accent (since revamped) in the runner-up spot at 116. Rounding up the bottom 5 on the mortality ranking are the Chevrolet Sonic (98), the now discontinued Nissan Versa Note (96), and equally ousted Fiat 500 (95).

Like the cream of the crop, the bottom of the pile also contains surprises. For instance, the lowly, joke-riddled Mitsubishi Mirage came out on top of the front-drive Chevy Trax (72 vs 73), and was only narrowly beat by the popular, well-regarded Kia Soul (70). And should anyone who’s ever logged on to the internet be surprised that the Ford Mustang GT coupe returned a ranking of 81, placing it in a worse position than the previous-gen Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra?

[Image: Ford, General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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4 of 37 comments
  • Stumpaster Stumpaster on May 29, 2020

    This one is simple. What would an Eminem song hero drive? That's right, Fiesta, Versa, Altima. That's your high death rate from the life lived on a strung out edge. Rich people driving large luxury SUV's with nagging wife next to you are going to drive differently. Not surprised at the full size trucks - macho factor through the roof, beer on the lap, watch this!

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 01, 2020

      They wouldn't drive anything that new. Think ratty Cobalt that smells like Meth.

  • Carlisimo Carlisimo on May 29, 2020

    I remember 15 years ago, SUVs and pickups didn't do terribly well. We had still had crumply F-150s on the road, but it was mostly due to single-vehicle accidents. I assume stability control has reduced those to the point that multi-vehicle accidents matter more now, and therefore mass. Screw all you big people in big trucks. I'm keeping it lightweight until it kills me.

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 01, 2020

      I mean, that may be sooner rather than later...And I daily a Fiesta ST. Guess I need to hoon it harder. The low ranking of a car like the Mustang leads me to think that the drivers are factoring into this equation a fair amount. Still, I mean I can look at the size of my Fiesta and realize I don't want to get T-Boned in it. A friend of mine also with an ST changed his seats and in doing so got rid of the side airbags. This would not be something I would do in mine.

  • SCE to AUX Another outsourced battery goes awry.
  • Jkross22 Nah, If I needed a truck, I'd get a Nissan titan or for nearly the same money a 20 yr old SR5.
  • Kwik_Shift No. It is hideous and jarring to look at. Why would I need this anyway?
  • Jeff From the side profile this gives off Taurus wagon vibes. Nice looking wagon love the exterior color and the interior. The burled walnut interior trim is beautiful.
  • Jeff I think initially there will be a lot of orders for this truck and then sales will crater. Those that want this truck mainly the Tesla fans will buy them and then anyone that wanted one will have already bought one. The Cybertruck kind of reminds me of the Delorean which was widely anticipated and once it was out and those who wanted a Delorean bought one that was the end. Both the Delorean and Cybertruck are stainless steel and both are weird looking. Maybe they could release a new Back to the Future sequence and have Doc drive a Cybertruck.