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Posted: 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

Crash test dummies, beware: The only subcompact car to pass the test is…

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By Clark Howard

Buying a car for a young driver? Take a look first at these sobering crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

A full 10 out of 11 subcompact minicars tested by the IIHS failed. The only car to make the grade with a passing mark? The Chevy Spark.

The testing involved cars crashing into a 5-foot tall barrier at 40 miles per hour. The IIHS was trying to simulate the most deadly accidents, which are the kinds where you're hit at an angle -- not straight on or in a T-bone formation.

Here's a full list of the cars that got either a marginal or poor rating in the small overlap front crash test:

  1. Mazda 2
  2. Kia Rio
  3. Toyota Yaris
  4. 2014 Ford Fiesta (built after August 2013)
  5. 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
  6. Nissan Versa sedan
  7. Toyota Prius c
  8. Hyundai Accent
  9. Fiat 500
  10. Honda Fit

IIHS test results are important to car manufacturers. For example, when Consumer Reports learned the IIHS deemed the Toyota Camry unsafe, the respected car was taken off the magazine's recommended list. So then Toyota had to spend big bucks to re-engineer the Camry's basic design and get back in the good graces of Consumer Reports.

When the IIHS speaks, automakers listen!

As far as the best car for a young driver or a teenager, thinks dullsville. You want them in an under powered mid-sized 4-door sedan.

Overall, today's cars are better at limiting injury or fatality when in an accident. That's due in large part to electronic stability control (ESC).

I was talking with people at Consumer Reports and they told me do *not* buy a car for a kid if it does not have ESC on it. Remember that one rule and you'll keep your kids safe as they learn to drive.

For further reading:

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