So how durable and safe are these cars? As it turns out, they’re a lot tougher than their crunchy-granola gas-sipping pedigree would suggest. Owners and car insurance companies can all breathe a sigh of relief.
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The Chevy Volt is having a bit of an image problem lately. Although nobody has actually been hurt, the Volt has caught on fire due to battery damage during government testing, leading to more government inquiry and safety concerns about hybrid and electric cars.
We looked for unusual accidents or other demonstrations of the car’s durability, but we also took a look at safety ratings. Safety ratings aren’t just predictors of how good a car is in a crash: it also tells you how well they deal with dings and dents. The safer the car, the more durable it is. To find auto insurance for your hybrid and electric cars, simply enter your ZIP code into our FREE auto insurance comparison tool above!
The Leaf recently went through pretty much the ultimate test in quality control when it came to its batteries: getting slammed by the Japanese tsunami. Like most cars, the two dozen Leafs that got submerged weren’t exactly ding and dent-free, but as Nissan engineers pointed out, the batteries came out completely undamaged.
That’s because the Leaf sheathes its batteries in an airtight solid steel compartment, with two other layers of protection: if you’re willing to pay $32,000, Nissan is going to make sure you don’t burn up your money. So fire is ruled out…but what about crash tests?
It does well there, too, actually.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Leaf pulls a “Good,” the highest rating the IIHS gives, on front impact, side impact and roof strength, meaning it’s considered a top safety pick.
The Leaf hasn’t been issued a rating by the federal government yet, but it’s unlikely that it won’t pull four and five stars left and right.
Overall Durability Grade: A+
To give you an idea of how durable the Prius can be in a crash, we only need to point out the recent $4 million crash of exotic supercars. Amid the destroyed Ferraris and Lamborghinis, you might not have noticed that the only car to roll away from that massive mess, albeit with a smashed rear end was…a bright red Prius.
The Prius has been acclaimed not just for its fuel efficiency, but for its safety. In government tests, it gets a five-star overall rating, and the IIHS gives models with side airbags their top ratings.
There is, however, a catch: models from 2004 to 2006 had side airbags as an option, not standard, and those models are considered “Poor” for side impact by the IIHS. It was also wrapped up in Toyota’s “sticking accelerator” debacle. So, if you’re looking for a used Prius, check the model carefully and consider buying only 2007 or later, and only models certified as repaired.
Overall Durability Grade: A
You might remember the Honda Insight from our piece focusing on which hybrids pay themselves off the fastest, and it won by being cheap and saving you a lot of money. But how does the Insight measure up in terms of safety?
Good, but not great. It’s the first car on our list to get only an “Acceptable” for roof strength, although the newest 2012 models do fix this problem.
Meanwhile, the government put it through its paces and found that while it’s a four-star winner when it comes to driver safety, it only gets four stars when it comes to passenger safety.
That said, the Insight is by no means a dangerous or unsafe car: in fact, it’s safer than a lot of gas guzzlers currently on the road. And, as we noted, Honda takes its reputation for safety about as seriously as it can: the 2012 Insight is looking like it got
a substantial working over so that the roof is stronger and that everybody in the Insight is as safe as possible on the road.
So, if you’re looking to save money without skimping on safety, a new Insight will be a good choice
Overall Durability Grade: B+
Ford has been doing its best to repair Detroit’s image, although its Fusion doing the occasional handstand really doesn’t help matters:
Let’s be fair, though: that was in the middle of last year’s terrible blizzards, and besides, the car itself is largely intact.
The Fusion itself is really a story of improvement: 2006 models started out only getting “Acceptable” or “Poor” ratings from the IIHS.
But as of 2011, everything is rated as Good, meaning Ford’s substantially improved the Fusion’s safety.
The government, however, is not quite so forgiving as the IIHS. The Ford Fusion pulls a four out of five stars overall, which is still a good rating, but it dips to as low as three with front crash tests. That’s still a fairly safe vehicle to drive in, but it’s still not as safe as the rest of the hybrids on this list.
Overall Durability Grade: B
If you’re looking for something sporty, this should fit the bill. But if you’re looking for something safe, well, we’ve got four other options for you.
Not that the CR-Z is unsafe, really. Just like the Insight, the 2011 model had some roof strength problems, but that’s been fixed in the 2012 model according to the IIHS. According to the government, it gets five stars in rollovers…but only three in side crash tests.
The reason it ranks the lowest, though, is a design flaw in the roof: if you look closely, you’ll notice the roof slants down, making it more difficult to see out the back, and thus, making the car itself more likely to get in a wreck by limiting your field of view.
Overall Durability Rating: B-
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