NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Few small, fuel-efficient cars performed even marginally well in side-impact crash tests conducted earlier this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The organization gave an acceptable rating to only two: Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cobalt.
Even those two cars initially failed the test when tested without optional head-protecting side airbags. The cars got "Acceptable" ratings when they tested with the air bags.
The findings may make "green" consumers feel like they've been put in a bind. Sure, they want to do what's best for the earth (not to mention saving some money on gasoline) by buying cars that sip, rather than slurp, gas. Especially now that gasoline is more expensive than ever; prices at some gas stations in California have now soared past $3 a gallon.
They don't, however, want to put their family members in danger.
But their concern should be tempered by the knowledge that car safety has been constantly improving over the last several years, according to David Champion, director of the auto test department at Consumer Reports.
"People say 'they don't make cars like they used to,' and I'm so glad that they don't," he says.
Champion points out that the current car crop as a group rides and handles better – increasing the driver's ability to avoid crashes – and incorporates many recent advancements in crumple zone technology, airbags, structural integrity, and even tire design, all of which increase collision survivability.
And there are a number of cars, both small and mid-size, that combine solid safety credentials with reasonably good gas mileage. For our purposes, we've defined that as greater than 27.5 miles per gallon on the highway.