One of the two greatest questions anyone will ask (or rather just assume) about the smart fortwo is, "Is it safe?"
Despite hundreds of documented real world data and lab crash tests, many still say no (why??). Some of those people bring a good point too. When it comes to crashing usually the small car will always takes the most energy, the most damage, and more likely injures to its occupants. With some of the best selling vehicles in America being the Ford F-150 that can be quite scary for many prospective buyers.
Back in September the ADAC conducted a test with the smallest vehicles on sale, the smart fortwo, KIA Picanto, and the Renault Twingo. They collided with a sled (weighing about the same as the average mid size sedan) at 50km/h with a 50% offset.
Of those tested vehicles, only the smart fortwo (the smallest car in the test) prevented the occupants from life threatening injury. Unfortunately footwell intrusion made the chance of severe foot injury high for the driver.
So how did the smallest car come out on top? Easy, a collaboration of safety innovations in one tight package.
- The heart of the fortwo's safety is the Tridion Safety Cell. It is best described as the hard shell of a nut (or NASCAR rollcage for American readers). It's a high strength steel structure with fifty percent of the structure reinforced with even higher strength steel. And the roof can withstand well over nine thousand pounds of static force.
- Due to the girder like qualities of the safety cell, there are small but efficient crumple zones front and rear. Along with absorbing force, these are also designed to transmit force back into the opposing vehicle, using its crumple zones. The rear mounted engine is also designed to absorb crash forces and even to remove itself from the equation in the most severe crashes.
If you've ever seen a crashed smart you might notice that a few of its wheels may have broken. Yep, they absorb force too!
- The fortwo's high seating position and short wheelbase come at a great advantage for safety. Occupants sit up high in seats with built in roll bars. And because the wheelbase is so short, side impacts are almost guaranteed to strike an axle instead of the interior.
- The interior is outfitted with soft deformable parts and eight well placed airbags. There's one in front of you, one for your knees, one for your head/chest, and curtain. Your passenger gets the same!
But of course, the safest crash is the one that doesn't even happen. For that, the fortwo has a host of active safety measures. Electronic Stability Program, Automatic Braking, Brake Assist, and a wide track all help you avoid the crash in the first place.
Whether you like the fortwo or not, you have to admire the innovation that Mercedes injected into the car to make it safe. While it might not be as safe as your neighbor's lifted F-350 (well, maybe...) it sure can hold its own in the real world...
(Photo Credit: Flickr)