The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids received top safety pick labels from an insurance group, bolstering sales prospects for two of the industrys most fuel-efficient vehicles.
Todays designations for the 2010 Insight and Prius along with the Kia Soul mean about a third of the small cars tested by the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety carry the groups highest rating. Vehicles with that label have posted good scores in front, side and rear crash tests. Top safety picks also must have electronic stability control.
The latest results show that consumers who want good fuel economy can also get a high level of safety, said Russ Rader, an institute spokesman, in an interview. Because there are so many small cars that test well, theres no reason to settle for a small car with less-than-stellar safety ratings.
Choosing a small car over a large one always means a consumer sacrifices some safety, he said. "The laws of physics still apply.
The insurance groups side test simulates a collision with an SUV or pickup truck moving at 31 mph. The frontal trials mimic 40 mph offset crashes with vehicles of the same weight as the test car. The institute also simulates a stationary vehicle's being rear-ended by a vehicle going 20 mph.
Todays top-safety-pick designations for the Prius, Insight and Soul put the number of top-rated small cars at 10, out of the 27 the group has tested. Other small cars with the rating are the 2009 Subaru Impreza, 2009 Scion xB, four-door 2009 Honda Civic, 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer, 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit, 2010 Toyota Corolla and two-door 2009 Ford Focus.
In April, the insurance group said the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Smart ForTwo minicars performed poorly in frontal crash tests with mid-sized vehicles. Upon impact, the three cars all collapsed into the space around the driver dummy.