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Small Cars Make Big Safety Improvements

Thursday, 26 May 2011 | 11:09 AM ET
Image Source | Stewart Cohen Pictures | Getty Images

The latest set of crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show something few would have thought was possible 10 or 15 years ago: several small cars are among the safest on the road.

Surprised? Don't be.

The results show small cars are benefiting from new technology developed to protect passengers.

They also show car buyers no longer have to give up safety when looking for better fuel economy. In fact, the IIHS crash testsare proof you can get 40 miles per gallon and have a top safety rating.

Of the 13 small cars tested by the IIHS, here are the six that received top safety pick ratings:

  • '12 Ford Focus
  • '12 Honda Civic
  • '11 Hyundai Elantra
  • '11 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid
  • '11 Nissan Juke
  • '11 Toyota Prius

All earned good ratings in front, side and rear impact crash tests. They also all come with electronic stability control to prevent rollover accidents. And all except the Juke have a version of the model that gets 40 miles per gallon.

Small Cars and Top Safety Picks
The results from some new tests that give doubters on the safety of small cars some pause, with CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

It used to be when you bought a small car you did it primarily for the fuel economy.

Safety?

Well if you got it great, but that was rarely part of the deal. As a result, small car owners, including me, always knew in the back our minds we were not exactly driving the safest car on the road. But that equation is starting to change.

Automakers are realizing that if they can build small cars with great mileage and safety, people will buy it. Look at the Hyundai Elantra. Not long ago, it was among the poorest performing small cars in the IIHS crash tests. Today it's a top safety pick. Proof, good things do come in small packages.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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