Chevrolet’s forthcoming 2014 Spark has been chosen as one of 39 Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in America. Being the only car in the Minicar segment, the Spark is the only vehicle in it’s class to have achieved this accolade.
The IIHS is a U.S. based non-profit organization which was established in 1959 and is funded by automotive insurers.
Safety is of course a huge consideration for new buyers and this new award for Chevrolet is likely to help sales with those who are especially safety conscious but who only want a small vehicle.
The Spark achiever the highest possible scores in the safety testing, “good”, in the IIHS’s moderate overlap front, side, roof and head restraints testing. The car went on to score “acceptable” in the new small overlap tests, designed to replicate what occurs when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another, or a solid object including trees or ‘street furniture’ such as lamp posts.
The safety tests conducted on the Spark were completed on the conventional internal combustion powered vehicle. However, with the electric version of the car due to be released next year, it is likely these tests and structural safety integrity will follow on to the EV. It is possible the EV version may even score better, despite additional weight from batteries, since the small electric motors which replace the conventional lump tend to reduce compromised crumple zones in frontal impacts particularly.
Gay Kent, General Motors general director of Vehicle Safety and Crash-worthiness, said:
“Spark’s impressive performance in IIHS’s most stringent test yet demonstrates the intensive efforts of our global safety team to deliver big safety in a small package. Spark’s safety structure makes extensive use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels and its robust passenger protection package includes 10 standard air bags.”
Being small, the Spark and all other cars in the same size category, represent technical engineering difficulties when designing for crash worthiness. As such, the development team used high strength steel in the front-end structure to better absorb and distribute impact energy around and away from occupants.
Although heavier than alternative materials, high strength steels contribute to a hefty 62% of the Spark’s underbody and 42% of its upper body. The official press release details further:
“The car’s rigid door beams and H-shaped structure under the seating area are designed to enhance protection in side impacts, and its high-strength cross members are designed to help manage crush space in side impacts.
Spark’s roof bow and B-pillar also use high-strength steels to help preserve the occupant space in a rollover crash. Likewise, the high-strength rear rail is designed to help protect the fuel tank in side and rear impacts.
Spark’s driver and passenger front knee air bags are designed to reduce the risk of lower extremity injuries in frontal crashes. Further protection is provided by dual-stage frontal air bags, seat-mounted side air bags and side curtain air bags that extend over the front and rear seating rows.
Additional safety features include a rollover sensing system, three-point safety belts in all four seating positions, safety belt pre-tensioners in the front driver and passenger seats, the LATCH child seat attachment system, adjustable head restraints and collapsible steering column.”
Other noteworthy cars winning the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards were several different models of Honda, Subaru and Mazda. The only two hybrid cars of mention in the awards were the Toyota Prius (built after November 2013) and Honda Civic Hybrid. What’s more is the Honda Civic Hybrid is the only variant of the Civic model range to qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ award since it is the only model in the range to have the additional front crash prevention equipment meaning the car can automatically apply the brakes in an emergency situation, just as is tested for by Euro NCAP.
The video below shows how the IIHS conducts their testing and here’s a link to the full list of IIHS Top Safety Picks.