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IIHS: Small car bumpers cost big bucks to repair

06/15/2009   [Original: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Government/Legal, Safety, Hatchbacks, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, MINI, Toyota, Carsumer Advocacy

Driving a small car in the urban environs they're so well suited for can add up in big repair bills, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Low speed incidents in parking lots and on tight city streets are everyday occurrences that seemingly shouldn't cost a lot to set right, but they apparently wind up costing consumers many thousands of dollars each year. The smallest cars on the market also have tiny price tags, making the price of repairs a much larger percentage of what the vehicle cost in the first place. The IIHS recently evaluated the bumpers of some of the tiniest vehicles on the market in low-speed incidents, and the results dovetail with the agency's equally low impressions of vehicle-to-vehicle impact performance of small-segment vehicles. A new damage assessment criteria was used to more closely mirror reality, and the cars underwent four tests: two corner impacts and two full width impacts on the bumpers.

Of the seven cars tested, only the Smart ForTwo earned an "acceptable" rating, with most of the pack scoring "poor." Worst was the Kia Rio's startling $9,380 total damage tally, by far the most expensive showing in the test. The Honda Fit and Mini Cooper may be more highly regarded in the small car segment, but both of those models also score poorly.

In diametric opposition to what anyone might actually enjoy driving, the Smart ForTwo and the Chevrolet Aveo came out best in terms of repair costs, bashing their way to $3,281 and $4,490 in total damage, respectively. It's clear from the IIHS' testing where bumpers often failed to engage or slid under the test barrier, that the way improve on the tests is to pay closer attention to bumper position in all circumstances when designing a car. If the bumper doesn't match up properly, bodywork ends up bearing the brunt of the impact, making even low-speed collisions expensive propositions. Hit the jump to see a video and a chart of the results along with the full release.

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