The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has singled
out six small cars that scored well and six that didn't in its
tough new crash test, which mimics a collision between the front
corner of the car and a tree or light pole.
The 2013 Honda Civic coupe and sedan earned a "Good" rating in
what is known as the small-overlap test; the 2013 Dodge Dart, 2013
Ford Focus, 2013 Hyundai Elantra and 2014 Scion tC earned
"Acceptable" ratings. The IIHS, an industry-supported nonprofit ,
says the results, combined with marks from previous side-impact,
rollover and front-impact tests, win these models a "Top Safety
Pick +" designation. (See all IIHS ratings
The six other small cars had scored well on previous tests --
enough to win a "Top Safety Pick" designation -- but encountered
structural problems or had issues with airbag deployment in the new
small-offset test, says David Zuby, IIHS chief research
The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze and 2013 Volkswagen Beetle
were rated "Marginal;" the 2013 Nissan Sentra, 2013 Kia Soul and
2014 Kia Forte were rated "Poor."
Great crash-test ratings are a critical component to affordable
car insurance premiums -- after all, a car that frequently left its
passengers injured or worse would soon be the subject of an
outsized number of expensive injury claims. Yet the safest car is
not always the cheapest to insure.
Comparing apples-to-apples car insurance premiums, the small
cars that scored the best in the most recent IIHS tests actually
cost more to insure than those that scored poorly. According to
data gathered by Quadrant Information Services, the national
average rate for full coverage on the top-ranked 2013 Honda Civic
LX two-door would be $1,422 a year. The same coverage on the 2013
Chevrolet Cruze LS would be $1,282. (Comparable rates for the other
models fell in between the two.)
Injury claims represent only one of dozens of factors that
eventually go into insurance rates. The differences between cars
are just as likely to be things that have nothing to do with
safety: the purchase price of the car may be higher, for example.
It may be stolen more. Its buyers may skew slightly younger or live
in more urbanized areas.
In the end, when it comes to the rates you pay, the driver
almost always matters more than the car. (See "
Are safer cars cheaper to insure?
") We look at crash tests as a way of weeding vehicles that are
unacceptable from your shopping list. The cost of insurance, on the
other hand, is more of a tiebreaker when choosing among the safest
We understand the impulse to pay as little as possible for
insurance. But don't let a small difference -- smaller than the
cost of a sunroof or leather seats -- put you behind the wheel of a
car that's less safe.