Chevy Spark Is The Only ‘Safe’ Economy Car
Only one of the 11 economy cars crash-tested by the leading car insurance industry group has earned a positive score — this according to a piece in the Los Angeles Times earlier in the week.
According to the story by Times contributor Jerry Hirsch, the 10 failing cars came up short of “acceptable” on new safety standards for front-end collisions, with only the Chevrolet Spark getting a favorable nod.
Methodology And Results
To conduct the test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had the cars strike a five-foot tall barrier going 40 miles per hour with 25% of each vehicle’s front end. “Poor” marks went to the Fiat 500, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Prius C, Nissan Versa, and Mitsubishi Mirage. The Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, and Ford Fiesta were deemed “marginal.”
No subcompact earned a “good” mark.
As a result, Consumer Reports dropped the Honda Fit from its list of recommendations, while a representative from Honda noted that the Fit was in the process of being phased out and replaced with a new design. It’s likely the company will be paying particularly close attention to front-end collision when the new Fit makes its debut later this spring.
It could be an uphill climb. After all, the Fit currently ranks as the worst-performing of those tested by the institute thus far.
Crash Tests And The Good They Do
The institute said it spent $3 million each year crashing cars and evaluating the results, with Karl Brauer, analyst with Kelley Blue Book noting that the “tests are important because they play into safety ratings, car reviews and consumer perceptions.”
“Crash tests are one of those things that a dedicated minority of buyers look at,” Brauer told the Times. “They won’t even consider a car unless they are sure the crash-test scores are good.”
Brauer added that Toyota has typically scored poorer than companies such as Honda and Volvo in the annual review.
“We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area,” said Toyota spokesman Michael Kroll. “This is a more-stringent test, and we will adapt. In fact, we moved very quickly with Camry to make changes that resulted in an improved score.”
The institute said the test is more rigorous than the government-run head-on crashes as well as other in-house assessments, “because most of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone is bypassed and the passenger compartment can collapse,” the group said.
“Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection,” said Joe Nolan, senior vice-president for vehicle research at the institute. “Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”
The Chevy Spark earned additional good ratings in the group’s four other crashworthiness evaluations garnering a Top Safety Pick award, the institute’s second-highest rating.
An in-depth look at the report as well as developing comments can be found at the L.A. Times website here.
While economy cars can be easier on pocketbooks, gas consumption, and the environment, they’ve still got something of a hurdle to overcome when it comes to safety. Of course, careful driving can still make these cars an incredible value, but the annual test is just an ongoing reminder that car manufacturers still have some work to do.