2012 FIAT 500

When a FIAT 500 showed up for a test drive last week, it didn’t take us long to wonder how safe this small car could actually be. Our concerns were put to rest yesterday, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2012 FIAT 500 an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

However, not all 500s get top scores for safety. The IIHS states that only FIAT 500s built after July 2011 earn Top Safety Pick status. “According to the group, the driver's seat structure was modified to improve safety, and those cars without the improved seat were judged only ‘marginal’ in the frontal offset test,” writes Autoblog. “The new seats help the 500 to score ‘Good’ in that test, a rating the car also achieved in side impact tests and roof strength.”

To become an IIHS Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must have standard electronic stability control and earn the institute’s top score of “Good” in front, side, rear and rollover crash tests.

IIHS Crash Test Video

USA Today reports that the crash-test dummy used in FIAT 500 tests showed a low risk of injury to the neck and chest. “The dummy, showed a potential pelvis fracture in the side-impact crash test in which the vehicle is struck in the side by a barrier moving at 31 mph -- the barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV,” says USA Today. “In the IIHS' roof-strength test, which requires the vehicle's roof to withstand the force of four times the vehicle's weight, the sturdy little 500 withstood an impressive 6.16 times its weight.”

Aside from the Ford Fiesta, the 500 is the only minicar to receive this award. 

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