• Apr 14th 2009 at 10:58AM
  • 79
IIHS crash tests – Click above for high-res image gallery

Needless to say, the folks over at Smart USA were not pleased to see the results of the latest batch of crash testing from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS did a series of frontal offset crash tests between small and mid-size cars, one of which included a smart ForTwo versus a Mercedes C300. While the results may have been what most people expected, they don't correlate with the ForTwo's results in standardized tests where the IIHS rates the smart as good in front and side impacts. The feds at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration give the smart 4 stars on frontal impact and 5 on side impact.

The problem, as Smart USA sees it, is that the IIHS devised a test that no automaker has designed to and that they claim only represents about one percent of real world accidents. Smart has even set up a site for customer testimonials about the crash safety performance of their ForTwo. Typically in the past, Smarts have actually done quite well in similar vehicle-on-vehicle tests, such as the ones conducted by Mercedes and Auto Motor und Sport after the jump.

The fundamental issue is that car structures are very complex and their response in a crash is highly dependent on the precise nature of the vehicle-to-vehicle interface. Because of standardized tests, cars are optimized to perform well in those, just as the powertrain is optimized to maximize results on the EPA mileage tests. It's not clear at this point how the IIHS methodology varies from what has been done in the past and why the results are so much worse. One thing that's clear: this story is far from over.

  • Photo from the Institute's 40 mph frontal offset offset crash of the Yaris into a deformable barrier: The dummy's position in relation to the steering wheel and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver's survival space was maintained well. The Yaris earned a GOOD rating in this test. (Tested vehicle: 2007 Toyota Yaris)
  • Photo from the Institute's 40 mph offset frontal crash of the Fit into a deformable barrier: The dummy's position in relation to the steering wheel and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver's survival space was maintained well. The Fit earned a GOOD rating in this test.
  • Camry pre-crash photo
  • Yaris pre-crash photo
  • The Camry earned an ACCEPTABLE rating in this test; the Yaris earned a POOR rating.
  • Photo of the Yaris from the Institute's 40 mph frontal offset crash with the Camry: There was a lot of intrusion into the occupant compartment. The driver's seat tipped forward, and the steering wheel moved excessively. The head injury measure on the dummy rated poor, and there was extensive force on the neck and right leg plus a deep gash at the right knee.
  • Accord pre-crash photo
  • Fit pre-crash photo
  • The Accord earned a GOOD rating in this test; the Fit earned a POOR rating.
  • Photo of the Fit from the Institute's 40 mph frontal offset crash with the Accord: There was a lot of intrusion into the occupant compartment, which compromised the survival space around the driver dummy. Measures recorded on the dummy indicate that the risk of serious injury would be high in a similar real-world collision.
  • C class pre-crash photo
  • Smart Fortwo pre-crash photo
  • The C class earned a GOOD rating in this test; the Smart earned a POOR rating.
  • Photo of the Smart from the Institute's 40 mph frontal offset crash with the C class: The space around the driver collapsed during the crash. Multiple injuries, including to the head, would be likely for a real-world driver of a Smart in a similar collision.

[Source: SmartUSA]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Anyone buying a compact is risking their lives, and the lives of their family. Funny how "saving the environment" can cost you your life. I will still stick with my full size trucks and SUV's.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I want to see a Smart vs. train.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I might have missed the comment here, but keep in mind that the new IIHS crash tests are for OFFSET crashes between two vehicles. From what I know, most standard crash tests do either head-on or offset tests against a static barrier. As for smaller cars being more maneuverable to avoid a collision, this is mostly true, but if one claims that people who drive smaller cars tend to be more skilled drivers, nothing prevents some moron in a larger vehicle from *crashing into you.* So, given this scenario, which car would you rather be in?

      Comparing European driving habits with US habits is pointless. The vehicles being driven and traffic density are quite different. It is far easier, albeit more costly, to add safety features instead of influencing driver behavior (ever try convincing who is clearly wrong but is too stubborn to admit it, and you'll see why its better to just force something on them, such as airbags and ESC).
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Comparing European driving habits with US habits is pointless."

        It is? Because it's quite clear that however large the favoured vehicle is in America, the vehicle mortality rate will always be higher because of diabolical driving standards.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why are people so surprised at stuff like this?

      It's a matchbox on wheels that weights 1600lbs - if you put it up against a 4500lb Merc, or a 5000lb truck you don't need a crash test to tell you whats going to happen.

      You can't have your cake and eat it too - if you are THAT concerned about safety and getting high MPGs, take the bus, or walk.

      Why is it that people always want to bitch about something? Cheap, clean, safe.... PICK TWO.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That is why you always pick the biggest, heaviest European car you can afford if you really care about safety.

      What really matters in car safety is major crashes that cause fatalities. This test is exactly that and shows that you have a greater chance of dying in a small car. How a car stacks up to minor accidents and fender benders isn't really important.

      The standard IIHS ratings don't really mean that much. A car can be knocked down a star because the trunk might open during a crash. I don't really care if the trunk pops open. The only thing that should matter is the condition of the passengers. If all four doors op open but the passengers are fine then that car should get a 5 star rating.

      If a car like the smart has 20 airbags but folds to half its size in a crash with a larger vehicle then it isn't safe at all. Your organs just have a lot of pillows to get splattered on.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So the "Smart" is a dumb choice for yet another reason? No surprise there. Simple physics would have told anyone the outcome of this test, and I don't think the scenario is as unlikely as Smart would like to portray. Mass does factor significantly into the equation, and there just aren't very many tough, light structures out there right now. Compared to alternatives (in the U.S.), Smart gets worse gas mileage, has less space, has less power, is more expensive, and is far less protective than the competition.

      I never understood Smart to begin with (especially without the diesel engine option you CAN get in Canada), and this is further evidence to avoid such a worthless vehicle. Other than short overall length (which obviously helps with city parking) I this car has nothing going for it more than an "I'm green" image for those who simply must be noticed.
      • 6 Years Ago
      They should do Smart vs Tahoe or Suburban crash test.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The real key problem is people who drive large SUVs or anything else larger than a car don't know how to drive them. They use car-like maneuvers and physics on larger vehicles that don't work. Owning and operating an SUV should be regulated differently.
        • 6 Years Ago
        IIHS should crash test the accord or C-class with the semi truck.

        there is always something bigger than you on the road...
        • 6 Years Ago
        ...aaaaaand the winner is Ben. Because he put some thought into his post, rather than just gas and ignorance.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It'd be hard to pick it out from the under-carriage.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah we should all just buy super huge SUVs! Then when our neighbors get an even bigger SUV, we should sell ours and buy even BIGGER ones! And eventually we can all be driving Freightliners, "For the safety of our children".

        SUVS ARE LAME.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ben is right.

        SUVs generate more kinetic energy and thus require more energy to stop. They are less stable, more prone to accidents due to the fact that energy required for ANY manouver is proportional to their kinetic energy.

        Most people driving them don't know that.

        To sum up - there are dis/advantages to both types of vehicles.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I3, in a Smart everything on the highway is bigger.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ caddy-v

        not motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians…
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Victor

        and how many Smart cars have you seen on a US freeway/expressway? I have't seen one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I wanna see Smart vs Hummer H1. Or better yet, Smart vs Mack!!!
        • 6 Years Ago
        sean, I don't know where you live, but motorcycles are on the freeway all the time here in LA, California. I used to live in New York and they were always on the turnpike and highways there as well.

        They're pretty useful for getting through bumper to bumper traffic.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OK, so the Smart fanboys want us to believe that the law of physics doesn't apply to the Smart- it's just that good. People who like small cars and hate SUV's say they rely on their superior driving abilities to avoid someone from hitting them- something that can be done some of the time, but not all of the time. SUV fans think they are impervious to anything smaller than them- and for the most part- are correct. The liklihood of a mid-size sedan or smaller vehicle causing a full size SUV to rollover is pretty nill. However, the smaller the SUV, the more likely the vehicle is to find itself wheels up. See, even in SUV's, size does matter.

      That said, will the valet please pull my Escalade up? It's the one with the 36" stretch, full roll cage and cow catcher out front to scoop Smarts, Fits and Yaris' out of my way without injuring drivers who clearly feel superior to me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The problem on the highways is the drivers are all on phones. I live in the northeast and we dont have any 65 mph side roads, plus all our highways are divided. Ill take my Smart any day!
      • 6 Years Ago
      - The crash results are sick
      - For its size the MPG is no great
      - There are very few places in US where we have parking problems like in europe for this its to make sense
      - Not comfortable for the hugee US back parts

      While I never drove one to say whether its fun to drive; it amazes me what a well established car company could come up with millions into r&d
        • 6 Years Ago
        Those millions were spent for Europe and here, it'd be impossible NOT to see a Smart around every corner or on the highway. Great little cars and has sold well enough in Europe.

        For the US, I can't imagine driving one, given that 99% of the cars are well... HUGE.
      • 6 Years Ago
      WAAAA!!! It's not fair! A bigger car would NEVER hit a smart. Only 1% of accidents could result in this!

      Are you kidding me? An Expedition owner would probibly keep driving for a few miles before they even realized there was something caught in the undercarraige.

      Did I mention the gas mileage is comparable to much bigger, safer cars?

      I spoke to a Smart salesman at a trade show, and he said driving the car on the thruway was TERRIFYING. The wind from the 18 wheelers was throwing him out of his lane the whole trip.

      This car is for all the weenies who want people to think they are environmentally concerned. At the end of the day, common sense will bite them in the ass, and rightfully so.

      We just have to hope California doesn't get ahold of this video. It will give them a reason to introduce legislation banning anything "bigger than a breadbox" to protect their beloved douchebag Smart owners.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Chiefstang...put down the crack pipe. In Europe outside of any major city there are just as many fast roads with large cars as there are here. It reminds me of another dumb ass comment a while back ago when someone said that Europe doesn't have semi-trucks like we do here. As for another moronic comment about public transportation. Yea have fun dealing with frankfurt rush hour traffic late in the day.

        Smart is a city car for people living in that city...plain and simple.

        Never been outside of continental NA have ya?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Smarts are not designed for motorway use. They're designed for urban environments with extremely high levels of traffic density.

        Common sense, eh? What a wonderful thing.

        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Bloke

        Ok, so do you want to be on the road when 95% of those "horrible American drivers" are on the road with you. We weave in and out of traffic because as I said: This is a land of big, fast roads. Get over yourself.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Now, I hate the Smart. I think it's overpriced, and I'd rather get a Mini Cooper. But.... the Smart isn't made for highway travel. It's made for urban transportation. ie, running around inside the city, where the maximum speed limit would be 35-45mph.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Just because it isn't right for you doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else. The point of a Smart is maximum ability in the city (and yes, the US has plenty of those) combined with the ability to be taken on the freeway every so often when needed. I'm in Washington DC at the moment, and the idea that a Smart doesn't have numerous everyday practical advantages over larger cars in this city is ludicrous. And it's still safer than probably every car built 10 years ago.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Bloke: Since I live in the land of freeways, your common sense doesn't mesh with ours. This is another example of European autoerotica. What works in Europe doesn't always work here. This car is a shining example. We don't have trains, and outside of our cities everything is big, fast roads full of full sized cars. If you're in this clown car, you're a speedbump... Even to a "little" mid sized car.

        Cheerio, chap!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Believe it or not, Chiefstang, America *does* have urban areas... and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 75% of our population lives there.

        You may also be shocked to learn that Smart's dealership network focuses exclusively on those regions.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Americans need to learn to drive. The sheer number of people there who have no idea what lane they should be in, who don't wear seat belts, who never use turn signals, and who turn into streets across traffic at incredibly shallow angles cutting across traffic is unbelievable. Virtually every winter accident I saw when I lived there involved a large truck or SUV in a ditch or on its side or roof.

      Given that some 16 out of every 100,000 Americans die in motor vehicles each year compared with just 9 Germans, the stats speak for themselves.

      Small cars aren't unsafe. Bad drivers are.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Chiefstang - you need to get out of your trailer. First of all, Europe has a comprehensive motorway network. Second, while public transportation in Europe is more extensive than the US, car ownership is just as rife and for worse traffic congestion. Britain, for example has one-twentieth the length of road network the US does, yet one-sixth the number of cars - and half the vehicle mortality rate.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'd argue that point... it comes across a bit like the NRA's tagline: "guns don't kill, people do".

        Whether it's true or not isn't clear. Mind you, the US may have a higher per-capita vehicle mortality rate, but that's meaningless unless you know the exposure rate.

        What I mean is, how many fatalities are there per 100,000 car-miles driven, rather than 100,000 population.

        Otherwise, you're saying something to the effect that Canadians are worse at skiing than Haitians because more Canadians die skiing than Haitians.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Due to the decentralized nature of the united states we still tend to drive around more.

        The average American drives about 12-10 thousand miles. I decided to do a search on the annual mileage that people in Europe drive and couldn't find too many results. All I could find was that in 1997 the average European drove closer to 7400 miles a year(which I doubt has gone up). So yea. We drive more.

        This is also not counting out west. I don't think you can quite understand just how empty it is out there unless you've been to a place like that. Hell I'm from the North East and it was startling.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This really hits the nail on the head. In America we really need to address driver education. I took drivers ed in high school, and they did not even teach parallel parking, and since I got an A in the class I didn't have to take the any road test. I'm sure many incompetent drivers get their license with similar ease. Driving a car is not a right, it is a privilege. In this country we need to make driver education much more rigorous.
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