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Here Is How Much Safer Small Cars Have Become Over 20 Years

There are some people that are scared of driving a small car, especially on our highways filled with trucks and SUVs. While physics might not be on your side, modern safety features mean that your ability to survive a wreck in a small car is exponentially better than in the past.


The European New Car Assessment Programme or NCAP, was founded in 1997 to improve the crash worthiness and survivability on all cars sold in Europe. While their tests may somewhat controversial, especially when a car like the Ford Mustang scores only two stars but meets all of the standards in America, the NCAP crash tests serve as impressive chronology on how far safety tech has come.


If you drove something like a Rover hatchback in the mid ‘90s, you were pretty much toast in a serious collision. However, advancements in crumple zones, structural rigidity and airbags, among other solutions, means that buying a small car is no longer a rolling death trap if the worst-case scenario happens.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (

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That Rover 100 test caused something of a scandal for the company. The car was designed in the late ‘70s and launched as the Austin MiniMetro, then facelifted a few times.

It got a very heavy facelift to become the 100, and despite being obviously at least a full decade past its prime, Rover/BMW were counting on it continuing to sell into the early 2000s, since that was the earliest they expected to have a replacement ready.

As it was, the old thing still managed to make it into the top 10 or top 15 on the sales charts very late in its run. That crash test changed everything, sales plummeted and the car was quickly discontinued in a cloud of bad publicity. It was one of several factors that caused BMW to rethink their investment in Rover Group.