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smart car surprises with safety

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The smart car is ready to tell the world that it's just as capable of turning heads as it is at protecting them. The 2008 smart fortwo is the smallest car for sale on our shores, but it's just earned the top rating of 'good' for front and side crash protection from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). smart's head and seat restraints, additionally, earned the second highest possible rating for protection against whiplash from rear impact.

The fortwo is classified as a 'microcar', and it's the smallest vehicle ever tested by the association. Weighing a measly 1,800 lbs and coming in at over 3 feet shorter than a MINI Cooper, consumers often wonder just how 'smart' it could be when it comes to safety.

After all, the smart lacks any significant front end to which a crumple-zone could be fitted, so an advanced restraint system and slew of safety features including side airbags help compensate. The only major concern noted during crash testing was the opening of the door during the crash, which could result in occupant ejection.

Note that IIHS testing is intended to compare vehicles across similar size and weight categories, so a 'good' rating on a small car isn't necessarily safer than a large car with a rating less than good.

IIHS president Adrian Lund explains the somewhat surprising results. "All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better. But among the smallest cars, the engineers of the smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package."