We hear it all the time when we're out test-driving any of the current crop of subcompacts: "Is that little car safe?" Well, if it's a Fiat 500, our answer should be affirmative, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The venerable independent testing agency has issued a Top Safety Pick award to the diminutive Italian cutemobile, which joins the Ford Fiesta as the only minicars to earn such praise.

The only caveat is that IIHS has specifically excluded 500's that were built before August 2011. According to the group, the driver's seat structure was modified to improve safety, and those cars without the improved seat were judged only "marginal" in the frontal offset test. The new seats help the 500 to score "Good" in that test, a rating the car also achieved in side impact tests and roof strength.

Fiat sales have been slow in the U.S., so perhaps this news might help Chrysler turn things around. At the very least, it will give owners a good answer to "What's going to happen if I hit you with my F-150?"

Crash test videos after the jump.

Update: As a point of clarification, IIHS consider the Fiesta and Fiat 500 so-called "minicars," while it classifies the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic a "small car." The Sonic also earned Top Safety Pick honors.

2012 Fiat 500 built after July 2011 40 mph frontal offset test

2012 Fiat 500 built before August 2011 40 mph frontal offset test

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