Are You Risking Your Life in a Mini Car?

Small, fuel-efficient cars have grown in popularity during the past decade due to high gas prices and concerns over global warming. However, many new minicars seem to come with an unfortunate side effect: poor safety.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently tested the crashworthiness of 11 mini car models and released its ratings of the safety of the vehicles. Among the tests was a frontal crash test that replicated what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object.

The cars included the Chevrolet Spark, Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa sedan, Toyota Prius C, Hyundai Accent, Fiat 500 and Honda Fit. The cars were graded on a scale of poor, marginal, acceptable and good.

Only one vehicle out of the 11, the Chevrolet Spark, earned an acceptable rating. Four of the other vehicles received marginal safety ratings, while the remaining six all scored in the poor category.  They were the worst performing group.

The cars are extremely lightweight, which means they sustain the most damage when colliding with a heavier car. In addition, the lighter frame of these vehicles is far more likely to collapse on occupants during a collision.  When a vehicle’s frame collapses, the risk of serious injury is high.

Head-on collisions account for only about 2% of all vehicle accidents but account for as much as 10% of all fatal accidents. These deaths are often due to the level of impact and the way the vehicle collapses when hit.

Smaller, lighters cars tend be more dangerous, as there is less room for the energy to transfer following a collision, causing the frame to collapse onto the occupants.

Increasing the car size a small amount significantly improves the safety of the vehicle. Among 17 slightly larger cars tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the majority earned ratings of acceptable or better. When it came to the frontal collision tests, generally the larger the vehicle, the better it performed.

Those who are planning on purchasing small cars should review all the safety ratings before making their purchase. Buyers should also check for all the safety standards, including side impact and rear impact results. Frontal collisions might be the most dangerous accidents, but they are not the most common.

While mini cars may be great for the planet and easier on drivers’ wallets, they have some drawbacks when it comes to protecting passengers in the event of a collision. Anyone considering buying a mini car should weigh the advantages and disadvantages.