DETROIT -- Most small cars, including some equipped with side airbags, fared poorly in the latest side impact crash tests conducted by a U.S. research group with links to the insurance industry.
In a report issued late Sunday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said only Toyota Motor Corp.'s Corolla and the Chevrolet Cobalt from General Motors performed well enough to earn its second-highest rating of "acceptable."
Both were equipped with optional side airbags in the tests after getting "poor" ratings in earlier side impact crash tests without them.
Other small cars all earned "poor" ratings in the latest tests, which simulate the force from the front end of a typical pickup truck or sport utility vehicle when it slams into the driver's side of a passenger vehicle at 31 mph.
Adrian Lund, the Insurance Institute's COO, said the least crashworthy of the vehicles was the aging Dodge Neon from the Chrysler group.
"This car is a disaster," Lund said of the Neon, which was tested without side airbags.
Lund noted that the Neon had also received the third-lowest rating of "marginal" in an earlier frontal crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute.
"If safety is a priority, the Neon is a small car to be avoided," he said.
Other vehicles tested by the Insurance Institute, with or without side airbags and earning "poor" ratings for side impact, include:
-- Ford Motor Co.'s Focus (without optional airbags).
-- Mazda Motor Corp.'s Mazda 3 (without optional airbags).
-- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Lancer (without optional airbags).
-- The Saturn Ion from GM (with optional airbags).
-- Volkswagen AG's New Beetle (with standard airbags).
-- Suzuki Motor Corp.'s Aerio and Forenza (both with standard airbags).
-- Nissan Motor Co., Sentra (without optional airbags).
-- Kia Motors Corp. Spectra (with standard airbags).
-- Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.'s Elantra (with standard airbags).