Six of 13 small cars tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) earned the organization's "Top Safety Pick" award, a turnaround from a few years ago when small cars struggled to win the designation.
The winners are:
- 2012 Ford Focus
- 2012 Honda Civic
- 2011 Hyundai Elantra
- 2011 Lexus CT 200h hybrid
- 2011 Nissan Juke
- 2011 Toyota Prius hybrid
The ratings are based on performance in front, side, rollover and rear impact tests. None of the small cars tested rated poorly in any of the four evaluations. The other cars that were tested include the Dodge Caliber, Honda CR-Z and Insight hybrids, Nissan Sentra and Versa, Scion xD, and Suzuki SX4.
The new award winners bring the total number of small cars named "Top Safety Pick" to 22, and are among the most fuel efficient vehicles on the market. Still, small lightweight cars don't protect their occupants as well as larger, heavier ones, due to the laws of physics, according to the IIHS.
"That's why it's important that the crashworthiness designs of smaller cars be as good as possible," Institute Chief Research Officer David Zuby said in a statement. "The new ratings demonstrate that small cars are much safer than they used to be."
A vehicle model's safety record is among factors that influence car insurance rates.