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Old 12-17-2008, 01:52 PM   #1
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Default Small car safety improves


In its latest round of small-car crash-tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ran eight models through a battery of trials.

They were plowed into a barrier and smashed from the side by a 3,300 pound sled, and a front seat from each model was separately hit to see how well it would protect occupants in the event of a rear-end hit in city driving.
None of the eight models earned the IIHS's "Top Safety Pick" award, but two performed very well, and only one got really poor marks in some of the tests.

Overall, smaller cars have made big improvements, according to the IIHS. As they get more popular with rising gas prices, automakers have improved their safety.

Suzuki SX4

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Good
Whiplash protection: Marginal
ESC: Optional

The SX4 is available either as a hatchback, which the company calls a "crossover SUV," or a sedan.
The IIHS crash-tested the sedan version, but the results also apply to the crossover version, shown here.
One important benefit of the crossover is that electronic stability control is standard equipment, unlike with the sedan.

ESC is a system that helps drivers maintain control of a vehicle during abrupt maneuvers and on slick surfaces. Statistical evidence shows it can prevent about a third of all fatal crashes, making it nearly as important as seatbelts.

Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Good
Whiplash protection: Not tested

ESC: Optonal on Matrix, standard on Vibe
The Toyota Matrix, shown here, and Pontiac Vibe are virtually identical small wagons developed jointly by Toyota and General Motors.

Besides ESC, which is standard on the Vibe but optional on the Matrix, these wagons have another increasingly common safety feature, Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
EBD varies braking power among the four wheels to provide optimum stopping performance.

Ford Focus

Front impact:
Side impact: Acceptable
Whiplash protection: Good
ESC: Optional on 2009 models

The optional Sync entertainment system in the Focus can be linked to your cell phone using Bluetooth technology.
And in the event of a crash (assuming your phone is working and is connected to Sync) the car will automatically use the cell to dial 911 and summon emergency help. This particular Sync feature is just now being introduced in Ford vehicles.
Among seat/head restraints evaluated, only the Focus's earned a "Good" rating for rear-impact protection.

Chevrolet HHR

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Acceptable
Whiplash protection: Marginal
ESC: Standard on 2009 models

The HHR looks like an old-fashioned work truck, but it's really a wagon version of the Chevrolet Cobalt small car, but with unique styling.

Head-protecting airbags, which greatly improve safety in side impacts, are optional on 2008 HHR's but are standard on 2009 models.

Hyundai Elantra

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Marginal
Whiplash protection: Acceptable
ESC: Optional

South Korea's Hyundai was one of the first automakers competing in the U.S. to make ESC standard equipment on its vehicles. Now, federal regulations require all passenger vehicles to be equipped with ESC by the 2012 model year.
The Elentra received the second-worst rating of Marginal for side impact. "Of course, Hyundai would prefer to have received the highest IIHS rating, but we are very confident that the Elantra performs very safely for owners, drivers and passengers," the carmaker said in a statement.

Saturn Astra

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Marginal
Whiplash protection: Acceptable
ESC: Optional

Sold in Europe as the Opel Astra, the Belgian-built Saturn Astra was intended as a replacement for the Saturn Ion compact car.

The Astra has "Active head restraints" that move forward to catch the head and prevent whiplash in the event of a rear-end hit.

Whiplash protection was ultimately rated as "Acceptable," the second-best rating after "Good."
Despite a "Marginal" rating for side impact safety, a General Motors spokeswoman expressed confidence in the Astra's real-world safety based on the carmaker's own extensive testing.

Two-door versions have electronic stability control as standard equipment. GM's OnStar service, which can automatically summon help after a crash using a system built into the car, is also available.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Poor
Whiplash protection: Poor
ESC: Not available

In the IIHS's side-crash test of the PT Cruiser, impact forces measured on the test dummies indicated a likelihood of serious injuries in real people.

The PT Cruiser doesn't have backseat side airbags and it's also the only car in this group on which electronic stability control is not available.

Chrysler LLC points out that the PT Cruiser got good marks in government crash tests, saying in a corporate statement that "No single test can determine a vehicle's overall safety performance. "

Mini Cooper

Front impact: Good
Side impact: Acceptable
Whiplash protection: Good
ESC: Standard on 2009 models.
The Mini Cooper is smaller than any of these other cars. It falls into the Insurance Institute's category of "Mini cars," which are smaller than "Small cars."
Nevertheless, the Mini Cooper, performed better in these crash tests than some of the larger models.

Top Safety Picks

In earlier crash tests, these small cars won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award.Honda Civic (four-door models with ESC)
Mitsubishi Lancer (with ESC)
Scion xB (shown)
Subaru Impreza
Toyota Corolla (with ESC)
Volkswagen Rabbit (4-door models)
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