City cars get slated over whiplash protectionCar insurers' research body releases ratings

01 May 2008

Popular ‘city cars’ are the least effective in saving you from whiplash injury if the car is shunted from behind. 

Newly released headrest ratings from Thatcham - the car insurers’ research centre - reveal that drivers wanting to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by buying a small city car are being short-changed when it comes to safety - no city cars were rated good for whiplash protection.

The current Ford Ka and Fiat Panda were rated as poor, and even the recently released Fiat 500 – new for 2008 – only got a 'marginal' rating.

Lighter cars

Thatcham says that most rear-end shunts happen during low-speed city driving, and that smaller, lighter cars are intrinsically at higher risk.

Crash research manager Matthew Avery said: 'Although across the board we are seeing improved seat designs with around 75% of all new seats tested now achieving a "good" or "acceptable" rating, more can certainly still be done. 

'City cars are not equipped to protect their occupants’ necks when they have to absorb the crash energy from larger, heavier vehicles which, combined with poor seat design, makes whiplash far more likely.' 

Good seat design

Mr Avery added that good seat design should not automatically be linked to more expensive cars, and hoped that the latest results would prompt manufacturers to improve seat and headrest design for city cars.

Thatcham rated Audi, Volvo and Saab seat design good across their entire ranges.

You can check out the ratings on the Thatcham website.