Safety of smaller cars

I currently drive a volvo station wagon. I am thinking about buying a smaller, more fuel efficient car, but I am worried about safety. I drive a lot of highway miles, even just to get to the grocery store. I love the mini coopers, but how safe can they be? What is the smallest kind of SAFE fuel efficient car?

Thanks for any info.

All cars have some risk. That said, a Camry is better in a crash than a Corolla, which is better than a Yaris. A Mini Cooper does well for a small car. Here is a web site that ‘scores’ various cars, based on a number of factors.

I also recommend you get a Consumer Reports new car guide, it has lots of info.

Small Cars Generally Offer Less Protection In Collisions Than Larger Cars.

Decide how important saving fuel is to you compared with your safety. Then while choosing a car, weigh both issues. Some fairly large, safe cars get fairly good MPG.


All cars sold in North America have to meet tough safety standards. There are detailed test reports available with the various impact results. Compared to cars 20 years ago, including Volvos, today’s cars are light years better.

Car safety is passive (built in) and active (driver oriented). To me a safe car is one that had good visibility, is easy to drive, has good tires for the season in question, and allows controlled, straigth line stopping. Even the cheapest econobox has most of these. A Mini has all these in spades. I would feel safer in a Mini than a Volvo for these reasons.

Your Volvo might “crash” better and slightlty safer , but cars like Minis allow you to AVOID most of these crashes altogether!

Thank you very much.

Thank you, this is really helpful information.

I Knew A Guy Who Didn’t Wear His Seat Belt. He Thought Being “Thrown Clear” Was The Smartest Thing.

Rationalization does not hold up to the facts.

I would feel safer in a Mini than a Volvo for these reasons.” Maybe you would. Regardless of these 3 features that minis have in spades and " . . . Minis allow you to AVOID most of these crashes altogether! . . . I can tell you that had I been driving a mini or clown car over the past several years, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, and if I was, I’d have life long injuries.

I have never been in an accident that was my fault. I have been hit while “pinned in” traffic at an open draw bridge and hit while legally stopped, 2 other times. No fantastic mini car features would have helped. My family and I would have been toast. Thanks to prior planning, I was in large, safe vehicles.


Click This Link To An Article On This Topic.

“Small Cars” and “Small Trucks” lose and “Very Large” cars win.

How much more fuel efficient does the car need to be, Laura? What MPG is the Volvo getting? What would you consider desirable? I drive 20 miles to get to the grocery store, too.


Depending on the age of your Volvo a Mini or other smaller car might be quite a bit safer.

This was tested recently on a British TV show. A nice big Volvo station wagon and a Renault (equivalent to a Nissan Versa) were crashed nearly head-on. The Volvo lost big time. The smaller Renault, with its more modern safety technology, sliced through the Volvo like a hot knife through butter, and its passenger compartment was in substantially better condition than the Volvo’s after the crash.

Bigger is not always better, or safer.

Newer is safer, and the most important safety feature on any vehicle is the driver. A large car is only “safe” until it crashes with a larger car, or a truck. You can escalate until we’re all driving armored personnel carriers.

I have seen the “better to be thrown clear” point of view cause a fist fight. People get very stuck on their ideas in this area

Last year in my area, a family of 5 in a large, “safe” vehicle was run over by a concrete mixer truck that failed to stop a a traffic light. They all died and the truck driver, who was not injured, in in jail now.

I guess the point of this is that there is always something bigger on the road that could kill you. If you like statistics, there are 4 European countries that have 1/2 the highway fatality rate of the US, and in all those countries the predominant car size is those “dangerous” small clown cars!

Formula 1 racing cars routinely crash a speeds of 100 mph or more, and ususally the driver walks away. I did see the Volvo vs small car collision clip, and yes, a well-designed small car can be very safe.

What hurts small cars is difference in sizes. Few SUVs in Europe, so small cars do fine when they crash into each other.

Also, the stats I found had US at about the same (slightly higher) deaths/100 million miles as European countries, not twice.

That “thrown clear” school of thought might make sense if the world was composed of foam padding, snowbanks, feather pillows, and Boston Cream Pie.

Unfortunately, the environment surrounding most roads includes hard pavement, gravel, metal and concrete dividers, and other vehicles that are moving at high speed. The people who claim that they would prefer to be “thrown clear” of a collision are clearly deluded about what awaits them once they have been thrown from their vehicle.

Though, looking at the wreckage, I’m not sure the engine was in the Volvo to begin with

HLDI has data from virtually all insurance companies (their members). It is collated here:

Clearly, bigger is safer. Look at personal injury and medical payment. Bodily injury liability is for the other car if you are at fault. Note that the ratings are the sum of inherent vehicle safety and the group of drivers for those cars, since this is real world data. Remember also that it is highly unlikely that you will be involved in an accident. It may be enough to pick a decent small car, like the Mini (see 2-door, small), and enjoy it safely.

I had a Volvo wagon ('98 V70XC) and I felt safe driving it. I also have an '03 Honda Civic and I feel safe in that too. I ordered my Civic with the side airbags which were an option you paid extra for in '03, but now they are standard equipment.

Size or mass plays a role in safety, but design of the vehicle is more crucial. Smaller cars of recent design are made with the knowledge that there are bigger cars and trucks sharing the same roads. Government and insurance companies are also crash testing cars forcing the manufacturers to either make a safe car or face looking bad in the ratings of crash worthiness.

I don’t feel I need to be in a monster car or truck to be safe. In fact the fleet of cars is moving more toward smaller vehicles and away from pickups and massive SUV’s. So, buy a car that is comfortable, efficient, and check the safety ratings to make a choice you are comfortable with.

I would feel perfectly safe in any car with a five star crash test rating by the NTSHA. Check out

“I would feel perfectly safe in any car with a five star crash test rating by the NTSHA.”

The Honda Civic has 5-star ratings, yet the 4-door is average for all coverages, and worse than average for payout on medical and personal injury. The 2-door is worse than average for all coverages and among the worst for medical and personal injury. All rated by the same folks you reference, but this is actual experience rather than the test crashes. Would you feel safe in a Honda Civic knowing that it is a below average performer?

A safe driver is the most important factor. All the other factors only make minor modifications compared to the driver differences.

I would like to see some testing of avoidance factors. How about rating cars based on stopping distances and handling abilities?

I’m referring to highway accidents in theose countries with US style highways; Uk, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, not the total traffic accidents, since European secondary highways and city streets are extremeley demanding to drive. Also, there are countless busses, motorcycles and trucks of all sizes on the roads there, and the trucks and busses are all larger than the average car.

In other words, if you are right then European drives must be much more competent than US drivers.