Small Cars, Safer Than They Look

Consumer Watch They may be small in size, but a group of 2009 two-door cars are providing impressive safety protection.

All the vehicles the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested were equipped with side air bags that protect the driver's head. The side test simulates being struck by a pickup or SUV.

The top performers were the Ford Focus and Volvo C-30. They received the best scores in front-end, side and rear crash tests.

Two-door versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt and Honda Civic, meanwhile, received top scores in front-end tests and the second-highest rating in side tests. The Civic received the top score in the rear test while the Cobalt has not yet been tested for rear crash protection.

The Scion TC, which is manufactured by Toyota, received the second-highest score of acceptable in both the front-end and side tests. But the second-lowest rating of marginal in the rear crash test.

The institute decided to test the two-door cars because they are frequently asked how smaller vehicles perform in crash tests. Testers called the overall results "good news."

The cars range in prices from $15,305 for the Honda Civic Coupe to $23,800 for the Volvo C30 ... making safety a real bargain.

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