Most small cars bomb new small-overlap crash test

Due to poor performance, Consumer Reports no longer recommends the Honda Fit

Published: January 22, 2014 12:01 AM
Honda Fit

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that among 11 subcompact cars recently evaluated, only the Chevrolet Spark provided adequate protection in the small-overlap front-crash test. Based on these findings, the Honda Fit, lost its Consumer Reports' recommended status.

For its performance, the Spark is a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. However, in the more than 50 tests that comprise Consumer Reports' overall Road Test score, the Spark earns just 36 points out of a possible 100—far too low for us to recommend it regardless of its crash protection.

None of the subcompacts tested scored a Good on the IIHS's scale, consisting of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor.

The Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Mazda2, and Toyota Yaris earned Marginal scores. That rating for the Fiesta applies only to models built after modifications were made in August 2013 for 2014 models.

(Check our guide to car safety for information on the latest technology, driving tips, and advice for teen and senior drivers.)

Chevrolet Spark

The Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, Hyundai Accent, Fiat 500, and the 2013 Honda Fit received a Poor rating in the test. The IIHS cites the two worst performers as the Fit and 500—with each car, "intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s space, and the steering column was pushed back toward the driver."

The new small-overlap front-crash test from the IIHS is designed to measure what happens when a car makes a glancing, head-on blow into another car of the same size or into a solid narrow object such as a tree or a telephone pole. Catching only the outer quarter of the car’s front end, the test has caught a lot of cars out, including the Toyota RAV4.

Small cars are at an inherent disadvantage in most real-world crashes, because the laws of physics dictate that they absorb more of the energy in any crash with a larger vehicle—almost any vehicle on the road is larger—and they have less crumple space with which to absorb that energy. This test shows how that disadvantage translates to even a crash with an equivalent car.

There are only two subcompact cars that we recommend as performing well in our road tests, having average or better reliability, and acceptable performance in government and insurance-industry crash tests: the Kia Rio and the Chevrolet Sonic. Both rate Marginal in the IIHS small-offset front-crash test.

A redesigned Honda Fit is due out this spring, which we would expect to pass the test based on the newness of its design and Honda’s recent accomplishments with this stringent test.

Eric Evarts

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