Most of the subcompact and minicars crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did very poorly.
Only one of the 11 small cars, the Chevrolet Spark, tested in the small overlap crash test did well, earning a rating of acceptable. The Spark is also the only car of its size to earn the Institute's Top Safety Pick.
Six cars earned the Institute's lowest rating of 'Poor', including the Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius, Hyundai Accent and the Fiat500. The Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta were rated 'Marginal'.
The two worst performing cares were the Fit and Fiat 500. In both cars, the occupant compartment was crushed in, and the steering pushed back toward the driver. They were also the only cars in which injuries were deemed likely to both legs, not just one.
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None of the cars earned the top rating of 'Good'.
The small overlap test involves the vehicle hitting a varrier at 40 mph, with just one-quarter of its bumper. The impact occurs in front of the driver's seat, concentrating the crash force in a small area outside the strong crash safety structures built into most cars.
However, in the real world about a quarter of the serious and fatal injuries in front crashes are cause by "small overlap," according to the Institute.
Honda and Mazda have stated that their small cars were designed before this particular crash test came into existence, while NIssan said it was reviewing results to improve future models. All automakers pointed out their cars have done well in the other crash tests, except Mitsubishi whose Mirage has not been subjected to the other crash tests.
And while these crash tests indicate how a car will perform in a crash with a similar-sized vehicle, in real life, these cars are more likely to hit a larger vehicle.
"These cars have an inherent safety disadvantage in many kinds of crashes," said Insurance Institute spokesman Russ Rader.
Source: CNN Money, "Small cars get crushed in crash tests," Jan. 22, 2014.