Most small cars aren't economical for crash repairs: Ford Focus performs the best; Rabbit & Prius are the worst in bumper tests

ARLINGTON, VA — Low-speed collisions happen every day in commuter traffic and parking lots. These "fender benders" end up costing car owners a lot of money and aggravation because the bumpers on many cars aren't designed to handle what should be a no-damage event.

In a series of crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently assessed how well the bumpers of 20 small car models would protect the vehicles from damage in low-speed collisions. The worst performers are the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Prius, and Volkswagen Rabbit, each sustaining about $4,000 damage or more in a single test. The Ford Focus performed the best, with about one-third that amount of damage in its worst test.

"Small cars are supposed to be economical, but there's nothing economical about three or four thousand dollars in repairs after a low-speed collision," says Institute senior vice president Joe Nolan. "Ford did the best job of putting bumpers on a small car that largely do what they're supposed to do. In 3 of the 4 tests, the bumpers on the Focus protected sheet metal and most other expensive parts from damage."

Why bumpers don't bump: To assess and compare bumper performance in low-speed impacts, the Institute conducts a series of 4 crash tests — full front and rear into a barrier designed to mimic the front or back bumper on another vehicle plus front and rear corner impacts. The full-width impacts are conducted at 6 mph while the corner impacts are run at 3 mph.

Click here to read the complete Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report....

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