Would You Feel Safe In a Small, Hybrid Car?

The Chevrolet Spark was the only smaller car to earn an "acceptable" crash test rating.

The Chevrolet Spark was the only smaller car to earn an “acceptable” crash test rating.

Grabbing a hybrid car and going green is great for nature and a driver’s self-esteem. For hybrid drivers, it’s great for bragging rights and showcasing what a great person they are. After all, drivers of hybrid cars are protecting the environment and the future for upcoming generations. Unfortunately though, they may not be protecting themselves.

This past week, a number of the tiniest cars on the road failed miserably in the new small overlap crash test. The test, administered by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), put nearly a dozen smaller cars through the process, and only one- the Chevrolet Spark- walked away with an “Acceptable” rating. Every other car earned less than stellar ratings.

Out of all the cars, the worst performing were the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500. According to reports, both of their passenger side compartments were “seriously compromised.” Also, the reports indicate that the driver side doors of the Fiat 500 were torn open, creating the risk of the driver being ejected from the vehicle.

Out of all the cars that were tested, none performed worse than the Fiat 500.

Out of all the cars that were tested, none performed worse than the Fiat 500.

IIHS vice president Joe Nolan commented on the results, saying, “Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection. Unfortunately, as a group, mini cars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small-overlap crash.” During this year’s crash test, the process was amped up to another level; the IIHS wanted cars to be fully responsible for any potential dangers. As a result, there was a 70 percent decrease in “Acceptable” crash test ratings.

In the days since the initial report, media outlets have been swarming on this news story, creating a whirlwind of bad publicity for smaller, hybrid cars. To battle the bad publicity, companies that failed the crash test have already issued statements. In a USA Today article, spokesman Russ Rader is quoted as saying, “There is no reason they can’t re-engineered to perform well in the tests. Often, the problem is that the main shock-absorbing materials are bypassed or missed when an offset crash test is conducted.”

This quote definitely sounds good, but would we expect these companies to say anything different? They would never admit to having a dangerous, less secure vehicle. Another thing: shouldn’t they have been prepared for this test beforehand? Why wouldn’t they have been?

Walking away from this story, I’m left with thinking one thing: If I was in a car accident and my life was on the line, I don’t think that I’d want to be in a small, hybrid car.


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