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Major Concerns Over Micro Car Safety?

Crash Test
AP
Crash Test

The video is dramatic. Especially if you've ever asked yourself how the smallest cars on the road would protect you in an accident.

According to the latest head-to-head crash tests by the non-profit group Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, people riding in these "micro" cars would be at risk of a serious injury.

Still, one has to wonder if these tests bring up a serious safety concern for pint size cars or simply highlight what you would expect when small cars collide with bigger, heavier mid-size models.

The Crash Tests

IIHS ran the three smallest cars on the road into mid-size sedans from their respective companies. The cars collided head on at 40 MPH. Not surprisingly, all three suffered far greater damage and than the bigger cars they hit. While all three meet and exceed federal crash safety standards, IIHS gave the three micro cars a "poor" rating in these head-to-head tests.

The Toyota Yaris vs. Toyota Camry

The IIHS says the Yaris suffered far more damage than the Camry with the small car's door essentially being torn away. Toyota says these tests show a crash that happens in less than 1% of all real world accidents. A Toyota spokesperson adds, "The real question for a 'comprehensive safety assessment' is how well the vehicle’s safety systems perform in the limitless variety of real-world accidents."

The Smart Fortwo vs. Mercedes C class

The IIHS collision caused the Smart Fortwo to become airborne and turn around 450 degrees. Smart President Dave Schembri questioned the logic behind the crash tests saying, "It's about small vs. big. If we take this to the logical conclusion, we'd all wind up driving 18 wheelers and I don't think that's what we want everyone driving."

Honda Fit vs. Honda Accord

The IIHS says the Fit gets a poor rating in these crashes. Honda says the test focuses on extreme and unusual conditions and all of the company's '09 vehicles achieve GOOD IIHS ratings.

The Bottom Line

IIHS is concerned that some people have bought or will buy these micro cars because they get great gas mileage and cost less to fill. In the process people may be trading safety for fuel efficiency.

While I understand where the IIHS is coming from, I'm not sure many people buy a Smart, Fit, or Yaris for safety. Yes, the small car owners want to be as protected as possible in these models, and in fact, all three do meet Federal safety standards. Still, haven't we all heard from the day we started driving that if we are in a smaller car we are at greater risk in an accident? Isn't that the reason many people have bought larger cars, trucks and SUV's? Conversely, with the improvement in fuel efficiency for mid-size sedans, buyers should also realize that many mid-size models provide very good mileage, and in some cases better than smaller models.

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