City Cars Flunk IIHS Crash Test: Honda, Fiat Fare Worst

Luke Vandezande
by Luke Vandezande

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced the results of its 2014 sub-compact crash tests and they aren’t good.

Last month, the IIHS released its initial list of 2014 Top Safety Picks and the Chevrolet Spark was the only “minicar” to make the list. Now the Institute has completed testing on a total of 11 sub-compact cars and there aren’t any newcomers.

“Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection,” IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research Joe Nolan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”

SEE ALSO: 2014 IIHS Top Safety Picks Announced

Even with the Top Safety Pick designation, the Spark still only managed to score an “acceptable”rating. It lost points in the small overlap crash test, an area that proved to be even more devastating for the rest of the segment. The test is tougher than the older moderate overlap test because the vehicle’s front-end crush zone is bypassed. That can lead to the occupant compartment.

Honda Fit, Fiat 500 Perform Poorly

“The two worst performers are the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500,” the IIHS said in a statement. “In both cases, intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s space, and the steering column was pushed back toward the driver.

The dummy’s head barely touched the Fit’s airbag before sliding off and hitting the instrument panel. The Fiat 500’s door tore off, increasingly the likelihood of passenger ejection.

Last week, Honda unveiled its new 2015 Fit at the Detroit Auto Show, set to reach dealers later this year. In an official statement, the company said it expects the 2015 Fit to perform much better than the outgoing model.

“We anticipate it will earn top safety scores from the [IIHS], with a ‘Good’ rating in all test modes including the rigorous small overlap front crash test,” the company said in a statement. “We also expect the 2015 Fit to earn the highest possible Five-Star Overall Vehicle Score rating from [NHTSA].

Fiat has yet to respond to an email request for a similar statement regarding the 500.

Every sub-compact model tested returned a “marginal” or “poor” rating in the structure category, which is the most fundamental element of occupant crash protection. If the structure is compromised during a crash, airbags can be knocked out of position.

Of the 11 vehicles tested, seven were downgraded compared to last year for allowing too much occupant forward motion during a crash. In those cases, the seatbelt either failed to react soon enough or the dummy’s head missed or slid off the airbag. Side curtain airbag protection in eight of the tested vehicles proved to be insufficient during the small overlap test.

Chevrolet’s Spark managed to score well even though it returned a “marginal” structural rating because the dummy was well controlled during the crash simulations and injury measurements were low.

None of the cars were given the “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating because the IIHS now requires frontal crash prevention systems for its highest safety award.

Luke Vandezande
Luke Vandezande

Luke is an energetic automotive journalist who spends his time covering industry news and crawling the internet for the latest breaking story. When he isn't in the office, Luke can be found obsessively browsing used car listings, drinking scotch at his favorite bar and dreaming of what to drive next, though the list grows a lot faster than his bank account. He's always on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> looking for a good car conversation. Find Luke on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> and <A title="Luke on Google+" href="">Google+</A>.

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3 of 14 comments
  • Narg Narg on Jan 24, 2014

    I read a couple years ago that a Chevy Spark was a better choice in this segment to any of the "fashion" cars (Fiat, Mini, Smart). This report solidifies that statement in so many ways. GM is continuing to get better and better seemingly blowing the competition away in terms of real world safety and usability. Once they learn to advertise, they may see sales explode.

    • Mike Mike on Mar 31, 2014

      What are you smoking? Lol.....GM safe? GM reliable? Yah right.

  • Sandy Sandy on Feb 27, 2014

    Love my fiat 500, just had my first head on it the Jetta, it was totaled, my smart car also never worried me