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Smart car doesn't ace crash tests

Tiny car gets some low marks in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests.

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By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

2008 Smart ForTwo
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The tiny Smart ForTwo, recently introduced in the U.S. car market, gave a less-than-stellar performance in its first crash test by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The FortTwo got four out of a possible five stars for protecting the driver in a front impact crash but just three stars for passenger protection. Three-star scores have become rare in government crash tests, with most newer models getting four- and five-star scores.

Three stars means an occupant stands a 21% to 35% chance of a serious injury in a front crash with a similar-sized vehicle. The chance of injury would be higher in an impact with a larger vehicle.

At just under nine feet long, the ForTwo is the smallest mass-market car sold in the United States.

In a side-impact crash test, the ForTwo got the highest possible score of five stars, but NHTSA added a "Safety Concern" note to the rating. The door popped open after the test.

While that doesn't affect the score, a "door opening during a side impact crash increases the likelihood of occupant ejection," the agency noted.

For rollover resistance, the ForTwo earned three stars. According to NHTSA's tests, it has 21% chance of rolling over in a crash.

No other passenger car - a group that excludes trucks, vans and SUVs - has a rollover rating below four stars, according to NHTSA. The cut-off for a four-star rollover resistance rating is a 20% chance of rollover.

All Smart cars are equipped with electronic stability control, a system that helps prevent skids and rollovers during quick maneuvers. NHTSA's three-star score takes that into account by adding to a vehicle's rating if it can complete a test maneuver without tipping..

A spokesman for Smart USA said the results were generally in line with the company's expectations. The company had said in the past that it expected the car to earn four-star crash test results.

Smart is a product of Germany's Daimler (DAI), which also makes Mercedes-Benz luxury cars. To top of page

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