- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

The Nissan Versa earned a perfect score in a new crash-test study of eight of the smallest cars sold in the United States, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Versa was rated as “good” — the institute’s highest ranking — in all three test categories, which evaluated front, side and rear crash protection.

The report, scheduled to be released today, was designed to study “minicars” — vehicles that weigh about 2,500 pounds or less. The heavier Versa, which weighs about 2,750 pounds, was included because the model is marketed to compete with minicars.

A typical midsize cars weighs about 3,300 pounds, while midsize sport utility vehicles weigh at least 4,000 pounds more than minis.

“The Versa is bigger than the other cars we tested, so it has size and weight on its side as well as good test results,” Institute President Adrian Lund said.

Nissan spokesman John Schilling said the company was pleased with the results and that the study proved small cars could be fuel efficient and safe.

Two other cars — the Toyota Yaris (with optional side air bags) and the Honda Fit — earned good ratings in front and side tests but not in the rear test.

The Mini Cooper earned ratings of good and “acceptable” in front and side crash tests, respectively, but received only a “marginal” rating — the second-lowest ranking — on rear crash tests.

Chevrolet Aveo, Scion xB and Toyota Yaris (without optional air bags) all received ratings of poor or marginal in more than one category. The Hyundai Accent received poor ratings in two categories.

Frontal crash tests were evaluated at speeds of 40 mph, while side evaluations were based on the vehicle being struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. Rear crash tests simulated a collision in which a stationary vehicle was struck in the rear at 20 mph.

The tests shows that small cars still are no match in safety compared with larger vehicles, as driver death rates in minicars are more than double the rate for midsize and larger vehicles, the institute says.

“People traveling in small, light cars are at a disadvantage, especially when they collide with bigger, heavier vehicles. The laws of physics dictate this,” Mr. Lund said.

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