December 20, 2006

IIHS releases results of first crash tests of minicars; Nissan Versa tops the ratings

Arlington, Virginia – For the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the smallest vehicles sold in the U.S. market, rating the cars for comparison of occupant protection in front, side and rear crashes. The Nissan Versa earned the highest “good” ratings in all three tests; the IIHS also tested the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo, Scion xB (not sold in Canada), Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and previously tested the Mini Cooper. The Mini Cooper is being redesigned and the new model will be retested.

The crash test results indicate which vehicles in each weight category afford the best protection in real-world crashes, and this round of tests reveals big differences among the smallest cars; but the IIHS says that any car that’s very small and light isn’t the best choice in terms of safety, as driver death rates are more than double the death rates in midsize and large cars.

Bigger than the other cars tested in this round, the Nissan Versa is classified as a small car, the next size class up from minis, but it is marketed to compete with minicars and so the IIHS has released its ratings along with those of competing models. The Versa was the only car in this round of testing to earn the highest rating of good in all three tests, which uses a test barrier representing the front end of a pickup truck or SUV.

The Honda Fit with standard side airbags, and the Toyota Yaris with optional side airbags, also earned good ratings in front and side tests, but the Yaris rated marginal for occupant protection in rear impacts, while the Fit rated poor. The Hyundai Accent, Scion xB and Toyota Yaris without its optional side airbags earned poor ratings in the side test, while the Chevrolet Aveo rated marginal. The Accent and Aveo didn’t perform well even with standard side airbags.

Of the group overall, the Accent rated lowest when all three ratings for front, side and rear were taken into account; the Scion xB, which does not have available side airbags, also rated poorly. In rating seat/head restraints in cars for rear-end crash protection, every model except the Versa earned a low rating of marginal or poor.

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