• May 14, 2008
Click above for a high-res gallery of the smart fortwo crash tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has finally released its official data on the smart fortwo, and it appears that the lil' urban runabout held its own during the IIHS' tests. The fortwo racked up a rating of "good" on both the frontal and side-impact tests, while rear impacts were scored as "acceptable." IIHS President, Adrian Lund, made it clear that normally bigger and heavier vehicles are the safer choice, "but among the smallest cars, the engineers of the Smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package."

Make the jump to read all the details of the IIHS' findings.


[Source: IIHS]

PRESS RELEASE

First Institute crash tests of Smart car: diminutive two-seater earns top ratings for protecting people in front & side crashes

ARLINGTON, VA - The Smart car is getting a lot of attention for its small size and style, and now it's earning impressive crash test ratings. In recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the 2008 Smart Fortwo, the smallest car for sale in the US market, earned the top rating of good for front and side crash protection. Its seat/head restraints earned the second highest rating of acceptable for protection against whiplash in rear impacts.

Smart Fortwo is classified a microcar, meaning it's smaller even than minicars. Weighing about 1,800 pounds, the Smart is more than 3 feet shorter and almost 700 pounds lighter than a Mini Cooper. It weighs about a third as much as one of the heaviest vehicles the Institute has tested, the BMW X5, a midsize SUV. As the price of fuel climbs and tougher federal fuel economy requirements kick in, auto companies are expected to introduce more small vehicles to the market. The Smart is the smallest car the Institute ever has tested.

"The big question from consumers is, 'How safe is it?'", says Institute president Adrian Lund. "All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better. But among the smallest cars, the engineers of the Smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package."

The Institute's test results generally demonstrate how well vehicles stack up against others of similar size and weight. Frontal ratings can't be compared across weight classes, meaning a small car that earns a good rating isn't safer than a large car that's rated less than good.

"People base their buying decisions on a lot of factors," Lund says. "If you drive only in congested urban areas where speeds are low, a small car may be more practical than a big one. We conduct crash tests so people who want small cars can choose the ones that afford the best protection."

The Smart has a crashworthy design for its size and is equipped with the latest safety gear, which is especially important in a small car. This vehicle's standard equipment includes seat-mounted combination side airbags designed to protect both the heads and chests of the driver and passenger. Also standard is electronic stability control (ESC), called electronic stability program in the Smart. ESC helps drivers maintain control during emergency maneuvers or on slippery roads. It engages automatically when it senses vehicle instability, and Institute research has found that ESC lowers the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by about half.

Restraints do more of the work in frontal crashes: The Smart mostly lacks a front-end crush zone, which is a key component in reducing injury risk in serious frontal crashes. Typically, front-end structures are designed to crush and absorb crash energy, allowing occupant compartments to slow more gradually, ideally with little or no intrusion into drivers' survival space. Then a vehicle's safety belts and airbags slow occupants further and are designed to spread crash forces more evenly across people's bodies. The longer the front-end crush structure of a vehicle, the more gently occupants are slowed and thus protected from injury.

To compensate for the lack of front-end crush space, the Smart's restraint system does more of the work of absorbing energy as occupants "ride down" a crash. "We recorded a high head acceleration when the driver dummy's head hit the steering wheel through the frontal airbag," Lund explains. This indicates the test dummy used up all of the available ride down room in the Smart's interior.

A stiff side structure and standard side airbags contributed to the Smart's good rating in the side test, which replicates a crash with a pickup truck or SUV. Injury forces recorded on the driver dummy's head, neck, torso, pelvis, and left leg all were low. However, the driver door unlatched during the crash. This confirms a finding of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's side test of a Smart released last month. The Institute downgraded the Smart's structural rating from good to acceptable, but the opening didn't appear to affect dummy movement during the test, and injury measures on the driver dummy were low. Still, doors shouldn't unlatch because in some crashes it could allow partial or complete occupant ejection, especially if an occupant is unbelted.

Small car safety: While small cars are safer now than before, so are large cars. In every category of passenger vehicle (car, SUV, or pickup truck), the risk of death is higher in crashes of smaller, lighter models. For vehicles 1-3 years old during 2006, minicars experienced 106 driver deaths per million registered vehicles compared with 69 driver deaths in large cars.

People often choose very light cars for fuel economy, but "you don't have to buy the smallest, lightest car to get one that's easy on fuel consumption," Lund points out. "The Toyota Prius, for example, earns good front and side crash test ratings. It gets better fuel economy than a microcar, but it's bigger and weighs more so we would expect it would be more protective in serious crashes."

How the Smart was evaluated: The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluation is based on results of a 40 mph frontal offset crash test. A vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

The side evaluation is based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on an instrumented SID-IIs dummy in the driver seat, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points are measurements of head restraint geometry - the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seats with good or acceptable restraint geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 53 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just went to the Smart website to look at the actual numbers for the mileage and so forth, and I agree, for a car that small it's not worth it. According to Smart's listing, it gets 33-40 mpg based on the 2008 EPA standard. Heck, I get about 30mpg highway/27 city (according to my trip computer, real world figures) in my Mazda3 2.3 liter hatchback with all that cargo space, which is almost twice as heavy a car.

      For a car THAT teeny, and with that small an engine and no acceleration, it should be getting much higher mpg numbers, 50+. That's a shame.

      And with an 8.7 gallon fuel tank, you're still stopping just as much at the gas station, just a little less expensive each time. (This car would save me about $50 to $60 a month in gas at most over my Mazda, even at $4 a gallon, big whoop).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow, talk about a negative reaction to me just trying to defend myself against the attack from David Thompson. I guess you're not allowed to defend yourself on here. In that case, I guess you guys can fight amongst yourselves. In my case, my trip computer is pretty accurate. And I was just responding to him trying to correct me on my mpg number sticker-wise.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well that's about what I said, my trip computer is showing that I get around 27 in the city and around 30 on the highway (ooh, i'm getting 1mpg over the sticker, lol). And I'll gladly pay the $50-60 a month to be able to carry more than one passenger, or some actual groceries, making my car actually useful.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The 2008 EPA standard says your Mazda gets 22/29. And if you don't need that extra $50-60 a month, I'd be glad to take it off your hands.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have a trip computer on my Mazda3 also, and everyone who has one knows that it's not very accurate. We get your point, but don't cite the trip computer as if its the true gospel or something.

        No substitute for real math.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I suppose the crash tests are impressive, but this thing hasn't received very good reviews. I hope this expensive little turd doesn't give all small cars a bad reputation. If small cars are unpopular, then we get fewer choices of small cars.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/automobiles/autosreviews/11-smart-fortwo-la.html?scp=8&sq=smart&st=nyt
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/automobiles/autosreviews/11-smart-fortwo-ny.html?scp=9&sq=smart&st=nyt
      • 6 Years Ago
      Weighs more than a 90s Geo Metro. Get worse fuel economy.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If I remember a 90's Metro would crumple in a head on with a mosquito. More safety robs both weight and mpg. Its still a good option for city dwellers where speeds dont get above 50 in most situations.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I would think that over time with high fuel prices, the size and weight AVERAGE of all cars on the roads will lower. And, crashes then at that time will be more favorable for the smaller/lighter cars statistically speaking.

        Just a thought. Not really replying to anything.

        I'd still like the tin can of a Metro much better than none of a motorcycle. (I know, I've hit a car T-bone style while riding a motorcycle)
        • 6 Years Ago
        A good option for city dwellers is the subway, a bicycle or walking. I've seen three fortwos, all on the freeway (I work in DC, live in the metro area). IIHS numbers notwithstanding, at 1,800 pounds, you're at a 2:1 weight disadvantage with maybe 75% of the cars on the road, let alone your interior proximity to the doors, glass, etc. They note "high head acceleration" going through the airbag to impact the steering wheel. Eh. Yikes?

        To me, these tests are informative, but aren't really accurate measures of real world accidents. Let's see an offset collision where a Smart collides with a mid-sized sedan and both cars doing 40mph. I think the results will be slightly different.

        Or let's test the Smart in a redlight scenario. A fortwo traveling 30mph gets t-boned by a mid-sized sedan doing 40mph. Again, I think the results are going to be different, and that car is going to get knocked all over hell.

        NHTSA (as reported by Edmunds) gives it only a 3-star rating in rollovers, and let's be realistic: This thing is going to roll in a good percentage of accidents it's involved in. Collision with a large SUV, and it's going to be like a flipper on a pinball.

        Like the Prius, the Smart seems to me a means to display that you love the environment; "look how cramped I am! See how much I sacrifice for mother Earth?!?" In reality, you're having little real effect, and at least with the Prius (which gets much better mileage, btw), you've got some useable space.

        For what it's worth, my wife's '08 Cooper S gets upwards of 39mpg freeway and ~26 around town, and it's got nearly +1000lbs and 130hp on this thing.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow, "acceptable", crank up the marketing machine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Every time there's a Smart post, the same issues get brought up over and over again:
      * Is the car unsafe?

      Yes, but by that definition, any car (and many trucks) built in the 1990s by someone other than Saab or Volvo was unsafe. And hey, they allow motorcycles on the highway, and they're manly.

      * Can it handle the highway?

      Yes, and it certainly feels more planted than most full-size vans (E250, etc) and is faster than a lot of cars made in the late 70s/early 1980s. Do you really need a sub-six-second family sedan?

      Remember, they sell these in Germany, land of the 140km/h (or higher) speed limit. They also sell well in Quebec (Canada), which has the craziest drivers this side of the Rio Grande.

      * Is it small inside?

      Well, yes, but it fits a week's worth of groceries for a small family and carries two six-foot-four people in comfort. It certainly fits more than any roadster you could name

      * Will you die if you're t-boned by a HD pickup/semi?

      Yes. If you were t-boned at speed (>65km/h) by a five- or six-thousand-pound vehicle, you'd die in a Civic/Focus/Corolla, an Accord/Malibu/Camry or an Escape/CRV/RAV4. You'd probably die in a bigger vehicles and you'd certainly be greivously injured. You'd certainly die if you were hit by a semi, provided you were driving anything up to and including a Ford Excursion.

      If you're that afraid of collisions, you should work from home, live in a house without stairs and wear a helmet 24x7.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Totally agree with you....All the whiners remind me of bubble boy lol
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ugh, that's totally not the thread I was replying to...
      • 6 Years Ago
      These crash test make no sense. What are the odds of crashing a smart into another smart? They should crash cars into a stand weight of 4000 pounds or so so that these results are comparable.
        • 6 Years Ago
        To Neil...The frontal offset crash with the mercedes e class mashes the footwell area of the Smart.
        Watch the whole video.
        I went to a Smart dealer and THEY showed me the video of the frontal impact,but they didn't show the rest of the video,just the initial impact.
        My point.The Smart's occupant's legs would be mashed to jelly.Be warned.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The point is, the Cobalt isn't appreciably better; unlike Smart-vs-SUV, they're pretty directly comparable. IIHS for the Cobalt:
        Frontal:Good/Side:Average/Rear:Good
        ...and for the Smart:
        Frontal:Good/Side:Good/Rear:Average

        Compared to the Impreza or Civic (good across the board), neither are top performers but again, we're talking about small cars; the safety differences aren't huge because the weight difference is minimal. The Smart may not be good _value_, but that doesn't mean it's less safe than a compact that weighs only fractionally more.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mmmkay psarhjinian... Here are the NHTSA ratings:

        2008 Smart:

        Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
        Front collision - Passenger: 3 stars
        Side collision - Driver: 5 stars
        Side collision - Passenger: not tested
        Rollover - 3 stars

        2008 Cobalt Coupe (2 door):

        Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
        Front collision - Passenger: 5 stars
        Side collision - Driver: 4 stars
        Side collision - Passenger: 4 stars
        Rollover - 4 stars

        2008 Cobalt Sedan (4 door):

        Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
        Front collision - Passenger: 5 stars
        Side collision - Driver: 3 stars
        Side collision - Passenger: 5 stars
        Rollover - 4 stars
        • 6 Years Ago
        "All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better," said [IIHS] president Adrian Lund.

        That said, I'll take my chances in a 36 MPG Cobalt for $14G instead of 41MPG in a $13G Smart.
        • 6 Years Ago
        My point was that one can spend $13,000 for a two passenger Smart and get mileage that is not much better than a four passenger (5 in a pich) Cobalt XFE- not to mention a cargo area that is almost twice its' size. Yes, the Smart is safe for a car its' size, but as the IIHS president says, "All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better".
        • 6 Years Ago
        I wouldn't take my chances in a Cobalt versus a Smart. A Mini, Civic, Impreza or Rabbit, sure, but not in a bargain-basement compact that was built to the lowest price point possible. I'd buy that argument for a Malibu, but the Cobalt doesn't offer much (any?) crash protection over what a Smart would.

        Seriously, check the safety ratings on the Cobalt: they're not good.
          • 6 Years Ago
          Mmmkay. Here are the NHTSA ratings:

          2008 Smart:

          Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
          Front collision - Passenger: 3 stars
          Side collision - Driver: 5 stars
          Side collision - Passenger: not tested
          Rollover - 3 stars

          2008 Cobalt Coupe (2 door):

          Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
          Front collision - Passenger: 5 stars
          Side collision - Driver: 4 stars
          Side collision - Passenger: 4 stars
          Rollover - 4 stars

          2008 Cobalt Sedan (4 door):

          Front collision - Driver: 4 stars
          Front collision - Passenger: 5 stars
          Side collision - Driver: 3 stars
          Side collision - Passenger: 5 stars
          Rollover - 4 stars
        • 6 Years Ago
        You can't compare fixed barrier tests between vehicles of greatly dissimilar weight. The Cobalt weighs 55% more than the Smart.

        The Smart is better in side impacts, night and day worse than the Cobalt in a head on crash.

        Any significant front on collision in the Smart and you will probably not walk again. You can take that to the wheelchair store.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hopefully they never get into an accident into anything other then an another fortwo.... You have to be a moron if you think the static tests are comparable to anything other then a vehicle that weighs the same. A 5500lb F-150 strikes the barrier with over 10 times the force of a Smart and comes away with 5 stars. If you want to compare it to say, a 40mph test of an Audi A6, then run the Smart into the wall at about 85mph.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Oh, and as a note, my friend has one of these now, and stopped by to see me at the Ford dealer. Parked next to a SuperDuty pickup, the first thing the truck will hit in a collision is the windshield header of the fortwo, it will already be halfway through the cabin before any noteable forces even begin to get absorbed.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dear SMART:

      Stop making it harder to convince my girlfriend to NOT get one of these. Despite its impracticality in our situation, she continues to want one.

      Thanks.
        • 6 Years Ago
        God....You people and "the transmission shifitng problems." It is meant to be that way. It is for people who want the effective fuel consumption and lower inherent cost of a manual transmission, with the convenience of the lazy-matic transmissions Americans are all too comfortable with. As said by Yago, you have to learn how to use it to your advantage.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You have to learn how to use it...
        • 6 Years Ago
        has she driven one yet? The rocking-horse action of the shifting and short wheelbase is a defining characteristic of my test drive.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Let her drive one. The transmission is intolerable. It's insane. the car doesn't roll side to side badly in turns, but at each shift, the car lurches forward as the power comes off, then 3/4 of a second later when the power comes back on, it tilts back again.

        I can't understand who would pay for that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't know. For the amount the rear end lifts in the picture on such a small car would make me pretty nervous. It's great that it'll protect you inside, but doesn't help that you may die of a heart attack from the fear of the rear end flipping over the front.
      • 6 Years Ago
      For the American market, a Fit is a better choice for many people, but the awesome park-ability is indisputable. Since the SMART was mostly designed for sort distance, urban operations, it seems that an all-electric version would be on the table. That would help the handling and shifting gripes too, since the batteries could go under the floor.
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