Forget the death-trap jokes: The pint-sized Smart ForTwo, has earned a full five-star crash rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for frontal and side impacts. More than 3 feet shorter and almost 700 pounds lighter than a Mini Cooper--and only a third as heavy as a BMW X5--the ForTwo is the smallest car the IIHS has ever tested. Nevertheless, it scored a maximum safety rating from the IIHS in the standard frontal and side impact crash testing, which involves both a 40 mph frontal offset crash and a 31 mph barrier impact. The IIHS findings follow last month's results from the NHTSA, which gave the ForTwo four and five star ratings for frontal and side impacts, but which found a tendency of the ForTwo's driver door to unlatched during testing, increasing the likelihood of occupant ejection.
Following the release of the IIHS ratings, SmartUSA was quick to emphasize the ForTwo's tridon safety cell--essentially a reinforced steel cage--which it says is designed to "activate the crumple zone of the other vehicle involved in the accident and distribute the impact energy throughout the body of the vehicle."
The IIHS' crash safety tests are conducted using a dummy in the driver's seat fitted with injury sensors that assess head protection countermeasures and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact. Despite the ForTwo's maximum ratings for front and side impact, the IIHS did point out that the absence of a front-end crash zone means that drivers involved in accidents in the two-seater undergo a different kind of experience than those in cars with a longer frontal crush structure. Instead of relying on the car's crush zone to weather most of the impact, the ForTwo relies more on its internal restraint system to protect the driver. "We recorded a high head acceleration when the driver dummy's head hit the steering wheel through the frontal airbag," said IIHS President Adrian Lund in a press release, suggesting that the dummy maximized the use of space in the car's cabin to "ride down" the impact.
You can check out the IIHS video of the crash testing here if you're interested in watching the ForTwo taking a hammering.