April 2009 - Three
front-to-front crash tests, each involving a microcar or minicar
into a midsize model from the same manufacturer, show how extra
vehicle size and weight enhance occupant protection in collisions.
These Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests are about the
physics of car crashes, which dictate that very small cars generally
can't protect people in crashes as well as bigger, heavier models.
"There are good reasons people buy minicars," says Institute
president Adrian Lund. "They're more affordable, and they use less
gas. But the safety trade-offs are clear from our new tests. Equally
clear are the implications when it comes to fuel economy. If
automakers downsize cars so their fleets use less fuel, occupant
safety will be compromised. However, there are ways to serve fuel
economy and safety at the same time."
The Institute didn't choose SUVs or pickup trucks, or even large
cars, to pair with the micro and minis in the new crash tests. The
choice of midsize cars reveals how much influence some extra size
and weight can have on crash outcomes. The Institute chose pairs of
2009 models from Daimler, Honda, and Toyota because these automakers
have micro and mini models that earn good frontal crashworthiness
ratings, based on the Institute's offset test into a deformable
barrier. Researchers rated performance in the 40 mph car-to-car
tests, like the front-into-barrier tests, based on measured
intrusion into the occupant compartment, forces recorded on the
driver dummy, and movement of the dummy during the impact.
Laws of physics prevail: The Honda Fit, Smart Fortwo, and Toyota
Yaris are good performers in the Institute's frontal offset barrier
test, but all three are poor performers in the frontal collisions
with midsize cars. These results reflect the laws of the physical
universe, specifically principles related to force and distance.