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No Surprise Here: Minicars Fail Crash Tests

Are they cute? Yes. Are they easy to park? Absolutely. Do they have amazing gas mileage? The best.

But here's the real question: are they safe? Not so much, at least according to recent crash test results. This might not come as much of a surprise, but most of the new "minicars" -- those tiny roller skates by companies like Fiat and Honda that you've seen scooting around everywhere -- do not cut the mustard in a collision.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested 11 different minicars. Only one -- the Chevrolet Spark -- received an "acceptable" rating. This makes the minicar group "the worst performing group of any evaluated so far." Some of the cars were downgraded because their seatbelts didn't hold drivers in place or their airbags didn't deploy properly. The Fiat 500's driver side door was torn off, which is an easy way for a driver to be thrown or at least partially ejected from the vehicle. Basically, it was bad news all around.

Here's the rundown of the vehicles that were tested and how they fared:

  • Chevrolet Spark - Acceptable
  • Mazda 2 - Marginal
  • Kia Rio - Marginal
  • Toyota Yaris - Marginal
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta (built after August 2013) - Marginal
  • 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage - Poor
  • Nissan Versa - Poor
  • Toyota Prius c - Poor
  • Hyundai Accent - Poor
  • Fiat 500 - Poor
  • Honda Fit - Poor

Many of these same cars have been involved in serious accidents in the Bay Area over the past few years. In this one, a woman pulled the driver of a Honda Fit from her vehicle to save her life. This past September, two women in a Toyota Yaris were hit and killed by a Mercedes in a tragic hit-and-run accident. And here's yet another example of a horrific minicar crash involving a Kia Rio on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, a small car is going to have some degree of disadvantage over the majority of bigger cars on the road. In any collision, the sheer mass of the cars involved is one major determinant of how severe the crash will be. As a San Francisco accident attorney, I've seen countless Bay Area car accidents in which a large vehicle caused irreparable damage and bodily injury to a smaller car and its driver.

Still, these crash tests prove that minicars are, without doubt, the worst choice out there. Even upsizing one micro step will keep you significantly safer. The IIHS noted that the "small car" category, which consists of cars only marginally bigger than minicars, received much better ratings on the same crash test. The moral of the story? If you're in the market for a small car, go small but not too small. You can still get good mileage, maneuverability, etc., without putting your life and the lives of your loved ones in danger.

What do these crash test ratings mean for you? Is safety the first thing you consider when buying a car? Have you been the victim of an accident while driving one of these subcompact minicars? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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