- The 2014 Chevrolet Spark stands out from the minicar pack in a new round of crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- The Spark is the only tiny car out of 11 tested to achieve an "acceptable" rating in the IIHS's small-overlap front crash test.
- The majority of the minicars are "the worst performing group of any evaluated so far," said the IIHS.
ARLINGTON, Virginia — The 2014 Chevrolet Spark stands out from the minicar pack in a new round of testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Spark earned the 2014 Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS.
The Spark is the only tiny car out of 11 tested to achieve an "acceptable" rating in the IIHS's small-overlap front crash test. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.
However, car shoppers were warned that the Spark, "while offering more small-overlap protection than other minicars, weighs less than 2,500 pounds and doesn't protect as well as a larger and heavier vehicle with a comparable rating," the IIHS said.
The 2014 Spark earned a four-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its crash tests, falling just short of the top five-star rating.
The majority of the minicars are "the worst performing group of any evaluated so far," said the IIHS.
"Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage," said Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research, in a statement. "Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren't performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small-overlap crash."
"In both cases, intruding structure seriously compromised the driver's space, and the steering column was pushed back toward the driver," the IIHS said. "In the case of the Fit, the dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off and hitting the instrument panel. During the test of the 500, the driver door opened after the hinges tore.
"An open door creates a risk that the driver could be partially or completely ejected."
The 2014 Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback models built after August 2013 received a "marginal" score in the small-overlap front crash test. Other vehicles with a marginal score include the 2014 Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio and Mazda 2.
As a result of the revised testing by the IIHS and the growing importance of the small-overlap test, the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C and Toyota Yaris lost Top Safety Pick status from 2013.
Edmunds says: The IIHS is telling car shoppers that upgrading to a larger vehicle may be the smartest move.