In years past, small cars rightfully carried the stigma of being unsafe—they were no match for the larger SUVs on the road in a crash and too inexpensive to have the latest safety gear. But times have changed. The latest small cars are not only fuel efficient, but their structure has improved to provide better impact absorption and occupant protection, and they now are commonly equipped with standard key safety features, such as antilock brakes, side-curtain air bags, and stability control. As a result, many modern small cars are earning high marks in various safety evaluations. Below, we show how the latest small cars stack up.
Back in 2006, only three small cars earned the Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) by being rated a top score of Good in front, side, and rear crash protection. Since then, the list has grown to 21 (including a few small wagons) even as the requirements to achieve the award have been made more stringent. In addition to achieving the top scores in crash tests, now a vehicle must have available electronic stability control and earn top marks in the roof strength test, a tough test established in 2009 to see how well a vehicle would fare in a rollover.