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Smaller, fuel-efficient cars getting safer

May 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The latest crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows small fuel-efficient cars are safe.

With the high price of gas, the interest in small cars that get good gas mileage is high too. But how safe are small cars in the event of an accident? Recent tests show you can now get a car that saves gas and has the highest level of crash protection available today.

Thirteen different small cars were crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They evaluated front, side, rollover, and rear-impact crashes to see how well they would do and the results show small cars are not only fuel efficient but are safe too.

Just a few years ago small cars struggled to earn top safety ratings from the IIHS.

"Many of the small cars that we tested were rated 'poor' in our side-impact crash, and few were rated good," said David Zuby, chief research officer, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But today that has changed dramatically, as no small car is rated "poor" in the Insurance Institute's crash tests.

"Today we're putting out 13 new crash-test ratings for small cars, and six of those small cars earn 'Top Safety Pick,' which means they get a good rating in all four of the tests that we do," said Zuby.

Those six top safety pick winners are:

  • 2012 Ford Focus
  • 2012 Honda Civic 4-door
  • 2011 Hyundai Elantra
  • 2011 Lexus CT 200H
  • 2011 Nissan Juke
  • 2011 Toyota Prius
Small cars are usually the least expensive cars on the road and in the past they didn't have the air bags, electronic stability control and crash protection built into them that they do today.

But even though small cars are now safer they still don't offer the same protection as something much bigger.

"If you're shopping for a small car, you're at a disadvantage already compared to those people riding around in larger, bigger cars," said Zuby. "So it's very important that you shop for those that offer the highest level of crash protection. We suggest shopping from the Top Safety Pick list."

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