Honda has long been known for its efficiency, reliability and resale values. And its stellar safety reputation isn’t too bad, either considering the Honda Civic just received¬† auto industry top honors among compact and sub-compact cars. Many of its competitors didn’t fare so well.

The two-door and four-door Honda Civic have received “good ratings” front-end crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

2013 Honda Civic get good IIHS rating
2013 Honda Civic gets top IIHS ratings.

Half of the 12 compact and subcompact cars IIHS tested fared poorly and six performed well.

Safety is critical in the fast-growing small-car market, with many buyers downsizing from larger vehicles.

In addition to the two Civics, the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and the 2014 Scion tC were “acceptable.”

The Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic and the Volkswagen Beetle got “marginal” ratings, while the Nissan Sentra and the Kia Soul and 2014 Kia Forte each were rated “poor.”

The group didn’t test the Toyota Corolla because a new version is coming out in the fall. The Corolla is the No. 2 selling small car in America, behind the Civic.

The cars were rated for their performance in the insurance institute’s “small overlap” test of crashes. It cover only 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end. These tests, added to the IIHS’s evaluations last year, prompt automakers to bolster the front-end structure of all cars.

The IIHS tests are more stringent than the U.S. government’s full-width front crash test. The institute says in many vehicles, a crash affecting one-quarter of the front end misses the main structures designed to absorb the impact. Yet such crashes account for nearly a quarter of the frontal collisions that cause serious or fatal injuries to people in the front seats, IIHS says.

The two Civic models and the Dart, Focus, Elantra and Scion tC each earned the IIHS’ coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award for performing well in multiple tests, including the small offset crash. So far, 25 vehicles of all sizes have earned the award.

IIHS, a nonprofit research group funded by insurance companies, conducts its small offset test by crashing vehicles into fixed 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph to simulate collisions with a utility pole or tree. The institute gives vehicles demerits when the structure intrudes into the passenger compartment, or if a crash dummy suffers injuries to head, neck, chest or other parts of the body. The group also measures how well seat belts and air bags protect people. “Good” is the top rating, followed by “acceptable,” then “marginal” and “poor.”

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