Mini cars are becoming more and more popular for a variety of drivers, from newly licensed teens to retired baby boomers. Yet while these small cars may look cool, they are surprisingly unsafe. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts numerous types of cars through a variety of crash tests each and every year—and this year was no exception. When they performed the specific small overlap frontal crash test on mini cars this year, the results were shocking. Out of the 11 minicars that were tested, only 1 received an acceptable rating. The rest of them—FAILED.
The worse mini car that was tested was the Fiat 500. When the Fiat 500 hit the barrier, the crash test dummy sustained a significant head injury on the instrument panel because the airbags were not in place. He also sustained serious leg injuries after the steering compartment was dislodged and pushed into him.
The only car to achieve an acceptable rating and pass the small overlap front crash test was the Chevrolet Spark. By default, it was then awarded the 2014 Top Safety Pick award.
The small overlap front crash test is extremely important for safety. During this test, the vehicle’s front corner is tested for strength. When the front of the vehicle fails this test, it means that the structure of the car is compromised and airbags can be dislodged or the driver’s front compartment could be crushed, causing serious injuries.
In order to complete this test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety forces cars to strike a rigid barrier going 40 mph. At least 25% of the mini car’s front end must strike the barrier in order for the test results to be accurate. What this does is bypass the front-end crush zone, which exposes the car’s structural weaknesses.
Larger cars, like SUVs and trucks, have found a way to improve the structure of their front ends in order to pass these tests and improve safety. Yet mini cars are at a significant disadvantage because there is not enough room to add structural support.