A common belief is that larger, higher-riding vehicles are better equipped to protect occupants in a crash, but the latest series of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety challenge that viewpoint. After putting small SUVs, mid-size SUVs and mid-size cars to the test in its newly developed side impact evaluation, the agency has turned its attention to small cars — ostensibly the most vulnerable group.
The updated IIHS side impact crash test evaluates a vehicle’s ability to protect occupants when struck by a heavier barrier moving at a faster speed: A 4,200-pound barrier moving at 37 mph replaces the original evaluation’s 3,300-pound barrier moving at 31 mph. The agency says the new test better replicates the impact of a collision with a large SUV. Eleven small cars were pitted against the SUV-simulating barrier — yet despite their size disadvantage, the majority came away with passing grades.