Only the Chevrolet Spark received an acceptable rating in small-overlap crash test from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when most small cars fared poorly. Likewise, the Spark was the only tiny car to earn a top safety pick award from the group. IIHS introduced in 2012 the small-overlap test, which simulates a situation wherein the front quarter of the driver side of a vehicle collides with a pole or a tree at 40 mph.
The test is considered much harder than a head-on collision since the front-end crush zone is bypassed. Joe Nolan, IIHS vice president said in a statement, that small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage in a small-overlap test, underscoring the importance of choosing one with the best occupant protection.
He remarked that as a group, minicars “aren't performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small-overlap crash." Tougher tests like the small-overlap front crash test have resulted to a lesser number of vehicles earning the institute’s top safety picks for 2014.
Around 70 percent fewer vehicles got into the ranks in 2013. The IIHS commenced requiring vehicles to pass the new small-overlap test this year to receive the award. Due to the revised testing and increased importance of the small-overlap test, a number of small cars -- Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C and Toyota Yaris -- lost their top safety pick status from 2013.
Among the group, the worst performers were the Honda Fit and Fiat 500, with both having the structure of the vehicle "seriously compromise" the passenger compartment. The driver door of the Fiat 500 tore open at the hinges during the test, creating a risk of the driver being ejected, according to the IIHS report.