Some Minicars Test Poor in US, not so in Europe

GENEVA, Switzerland – Minicars, or superminis as they are often called in Europe are one of the most popular vehicles in small cities in Europe. Nevertheless, six minicars tested by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have earned “poor” ratings in the overlap front crash test; not so in Europe. What gives?

The IIHS, which is the research arm of the US insurance industry, unveiled the results on 22 January. According to their data, “only 1 minicar out of 11 tested, achieves an acceptable safety rating” in the US.

Six of the cars earned IIHS’ lowest rating of “Poor”, including some minis popular in Switzerland.

While the results sound terrible, it is worth noting that US and European crash tests are not synonymous. Many tests may look similar at a glance but contain crucial differences.

According to NBC News: the European frontal crash test uses a deformable barrier — made to mimic another car — that slams into 40 percent of the front of the vehicle. The impact spreads the energy from the crash across the rest of the car. The fixed barrier in the US test absorbs no energy, causing a severe crash that evaluates the vehicle’s overall strength.

Adding to the complexity of the frontal test is that the US and Europe put their crash test dummies in different seating positions, which can affect how the air bags deploy.

IIHS tests bumpers with 3 mph and 6 mph collisions, to see how well these protect the vehicle in a crash. In Europe however, tests replicate hitting pedestrians at 25 mph to see how much harm the bumper causes to pedestrians.

Test goals could change in the US though, as pedestrians are the focus of proposed new regulations to modify the front end of vehicles to lessen the harm they can cause. Such changes could bring US tests to pair with those carried out in Europe. Until then, see the list below. It lists European ratings for those minis sold in Europe, which received poor ratings in the US:

  • Fiat 500: The Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) gave it nearly stellar marks: “The passenger compartment remained stable during the impact … There were no structures in the dashboard that presented a risk of injury to the passengers knees and femurs.”
  • Honda Fit – also called Honda Jazz in Europe. In 2009, the Euro NCAP rated this vehicle from Marginal to Good.

See the US crash tests

Read the full US crash test report here or search for the European ratings here.

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