The Institute is releasing results from small overlap front crash tests of 12 small car models.

The small overlap crash test simulates what happens when a vehicle strays over the center line and hits the oncoming vehicle in the corner or the corner, or the vehicle hits a tree or a pole. The Mazda5 is the worst performing vehicle in this group. The occupant compartment basically collapsed, that resulted in high forces on the dummy’s legs.

We also saw that the steering column moved away from the driver’s head, that resulted in the head sliding off the airbag and hitting the instrument panel directly. In addition, side curtain airbag didn’t deploy, and the door unlatched during the crash. In real world small overlap frontal crashes head injuries are common. A frequent source of those injuries is the head hitting hard structure inside the car. In the Fiat 500L the steering column moved away from the driver taking the airbag with it.

That allowed the driver’s head to slide off the airbag and hit the frame of the window directly. The only vehicle to earn a good rating in this group is the Mini Cooper Countryman. Its occupant compartment held up reasonably well.

The occupant’s motion was well controlled, and the front and side airbags helped keep the occupant’s head away from any hard structures in the vehicle. This is the first time the Institute’s evaluated small overlap front crash protection for electric vehicles.

The Chevy Volt held up reasonably well, earning an overall acceptable rating but the Nissan Leaf really struggled, earning a poor rating. The structural integrity of the occupant compartment was seriously compromised, the instrument panel and steering column were pushed far back towards the driver and in the footwell, the parking brake pedal came back 12 inches towards the driver resulting in a high risk of leg injuries.

The good news is in neither vehicle did we see a problem with their batteries as a result of the crash. Despite the marginal and poor performers in this round of tests many small cars are performing well.

Of the 32 vehicles we’ve evaluated so far 19 earned the Institute’s highest safety ratings. If you’re shopping for a small car choose one of these 19 for the best safety.

Keywords: car accident attorney, frontal crashes head injuries

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