August 8th, 2013 by Steve Cypher

The IIHS has been busy lately crashing even more cars into their small overlap test. But now after another round of testing the first round of safest small cars are tested.

2013 Honda Civic
The 2013 Honda Civic was the Safest Small Car tested

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest crash test has yielded some surprising results as of late. While most midsized cars passed with acceptable scores, there was still some surprises in the failing of the two Toyota Top Safety Pick’s: the Toyota Camry and the Toyota Prius V.

The test for Small SUV’s produced even more surprises, with a full half of initial vehicles tested failing the small overlap test, including SUV’s from the Big 3, Toyota, and the Korean twins Hyundai and Kia. The latest test for small cars was not nearly as shocking but was not without it’s winners and losers.

2013 Honda Civic
The 2013 Honda Civic demonstrating proper airbag deployment

First the good news for people looking for the safest affordable small cars; the IIHS says half of the 2013 model year small cars it tested passed the small overlap crash test for small cars. Four models passed with scores of acceptable, including the new Dodge Dart, the Ford Focus 4-door, the Hyundai Elantra, and the Scion tC all passed and were awarded Top Safety Pick+ honors.

2013 Dodge Dart
The ’13 Dart did well, but not perfect

However only two vehicles scored perfect marks across the board, and they both are the Honda Civic. Both the two door Civic Coupe and four door Honda Civic were the only models tested so far in its class to have received the top marks of Good for the new test. The new designation should give Honda a clear platform to stand on for the designation of safest small car.

2013 Honda Civic 4 door
The ’13 Civic 4 Door shows off its top score

And now for the not so great news. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says three models didn’t quite make the grade in their newest test, and while they will still all receive the old honor of Top Safety Pick for passing all previous test, they will not be awarded Top Safety Pick+ designation this year. Better luck next time Chevy Cruze, Chevy Sonic, and Volkswagen Beetle.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Lastly, the bad news. Of the twelve cars initially tested by the IIHS, three failed the small overlap, namely the Kia Soul, the Kia Forte, and the Nissan Sentra. Of the three the Kia Forte fared the worst, however it would be a stretch to designate any of the three as ‘unsafe’ as outside the small overlap test, all three scored Top Safety Pick and top scores in all other test.

2013 Kia Soul

So how do new cars and SUV’s that normally fair so well in other crash test do so poorly in this latest offset test?

“The small cars with marginal or poor ratings had some of the same structural and restraint system issues as other models we’ve tested,” says David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research officer. “In the worst cases safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways with unstable steering columns and the dummy’s head hit the instrument panel. Side curtain airbags didn’t deploy or didn’t provide enough forward coverage to make a difference. All of this adds up to marginal or poor protection in a small overlap crash.”

In fact, in their test of the Volkswagen Beetle, the IIHS states that the steering column moved nearly 5 inches to the right while the crash jerked the dummies body to the left. The result is instead of landing face first into a feathery airbag, the dummy wound up eating dashboard. Ouch.

2013 Honda Civic
The Kia Forte demonstrating the airbag problem

The good news is however, that even vehicles that did not score well this time around, many are expected to do much better next time after some slight tweaks. The Chevrolet Sonic’s side curtain airbags deployed to late to be of much help in the small overlap test, while a recently reconfigured Toyota tC had its timing recently adjusted to take better action in case of a small overlap crash.

2013 Nissan Sentra
The dummy suggest that Nissan tweak the side airbag

The result? The Scion tC scored an Acceptable grade and Top Safety Pick+ honors, while the Sonic only scored marginal. That may not sound like good news for Chevy now, but with nearly two thirds of the small cars in production for 2013 not yet tested, it means automakers now have good incentive to make the small changes they need to make their vehicles the safest possible.

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