The institute chose pairs of 2009 models from Daimler, Honda, and Toyota because these automakers have micro and mini models that earn good frontal crash ratings. Researchers rated performance in the 40 mph car to car tests, like the front-into-barrier tests, based on measured intrusion into the occupant compartment. The stats recorded were the force of impact to the driver dummy and movement of the dummy during the impact. As expected, the laws of physics prevailed: The Honda Fit, Smart Fortwo, and Toyota Yaris performed well in the institutes frontal offset barrier test, but all three were poor performers in frontal collisions with midsize cars.
Size and weight affect injury likelihood in all kinds of crashes. In a collision involving two vehicles that differ in size and weight, the occupants in the smaller lighter vehicle will be at a disadvantage. The larger, heavier vehicle will always push the lighter vehicle backward. As a result, less force will be upon the occupants in the larger vehicle. The IIHS indicated that the death rate in minicars is almost twice as high as the rate in larger cars.
The question then is up to the consumer. While the automakers are downsizing automobiles to use less fuel, it may come at a price as occupant safety will be compromised.
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