WASHINGTON — Micro cars can give motorists top-notch fuel efficiency at a competitive price, but the insurance industry says they don't fare too well in collisions with larger vehicles.
In crash tests released Tuesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers of 2009 versions of the Smart Fortwo, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris could face significant leg and head injuries in severe front-end crashes with larger, mid-sized vehicles.
"There are good reasons people buy mini cars. They're more affordable, and they use less gas. But the safety tradeoffs are clear from our new tests," said Adrian Lund, the institute's president.
Automakers who manufacture the small cars said the tests simulated a high-speed crash that rarely happens on the road.
The tests involved head-on crashes between the Fortwo and a 2009 Mercedes C Class, the Fit and a 2009 Honda Accord and the Yaris and the 2009 Toyota Camry. The tests were conducted at 40 miles per hour.
In the Fortwo collision, the institute said the Smart, which weighs 1,808 pounds, went airborne and turned around 450 degrees after striking the Mercedes. There was extensive damage to the Fortwo's interior and the driver could have faced extensive injuries to the head and legs.
In the Fit's test, the dummy's head struck the steering wheel through the air bag and showed a high risk of leg injuries.
In the Yaris test, the institute said the car sustained damage to the door and front passenger area, and the driver dummy showed signs of head injuries.