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]
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