Small in stature doesn’t always mean a car is unsafe, and that couldn’t be more true than with the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic. The IIHS solidified this recently by awarding the small econobox its coveted Top Safety Pick award after a disappointing showing initially.

“They sure don’t build them like they used to,” and it’s a dang good thing too. Years ago, folks thought the bigger and stronger a car was meant it was a safer car. More recently, automakers found that strategically positioning weak spots in cars, known as “crumple zones,” helped keep passengers safer by using the energy of a crash to fold these spots like an accordion instead of causing trauma to the passengers.

Crumple zones are old news though, as automakers have to deal with new and changing safety tests with each passing year. One such test is the controversial and hard-to-pass small overlap frontal crash. The 2015 Sonic initially did below average on this test, netting it a “marginal” rating from the IIHS and leaving it one “good” rating shy of the Top Safety Pick award.

Well, Chevy went to task improving the front-end structure, the doorsill, and the door hinge pillar on the 2015 Sonic in February 2015. With these improvements in place, the IIHS noted that intrusion into the driver’s space dropped from 6 inches to just 4 inches, resulting in a lower likelihood of injury. Additionally, the front and curtain airbags protected the crash-test dummy’s head better than in the previous test. In the previous test, the airbag deployed late, resulting in an increased potential for injury.

Those improvements were enough to jump the Sonic two levels in its small overlap test, earning it a “good” rating.

The 2015 Sonic also received “good” ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests on its way to the Top Safety Pick award.

Keep in mind that this award applies only to the Sonic hatchbacks and sedans built after February 2015.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

With folks stretching to make ends meet, these small sedans and hatchbacks have become staple family cars. Therefore, the safety of these cars is super important. Add to this recent NHTSA research showing that these small overlap crashes (less than 33 percent overlap) make up 22 percent of fatal car crashes in the U.S., it is obvious why it was important for Chevy to improve this rating. Not only will this help sell more Sonics in the future, but it will also keep occupants safer on the road.

Chevrolet Sonic

2014 Chevrolet Sonic Exterior
- image 511233

Read our full review here.

Press Release

Changes to the structure and airbags of the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic have lifted the small car’s rating for small overlap front crash protection from marginal to good. The car now qualifies for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award.

Chevrolet Sonic Earns 2015 Top Safety Pick Exterior
- image 629535

The new rating applies to both sedan and hatchback versions of the Sonic built after February 2015. Chevrolet made modifications to the front-end structure, door sill and door hinge pillar. In addition, the side curtain airbags were lengthened and reprogrammed to deploy earlier in small overlap crashes.

In the latest test, the driver space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the footrest and adjacent footwell. That’s less than the 6 inches of intrusion in the lower interior that occurred in the earlier test.

The lower intrusion likely contributed to better injury indicators. Measures taken from the dummy in the earlier test showed that leg injuries would be possible. The new test indicated significant injuries would be unlikely in a crash of this severity.

The dummy’s movement in the latest test was well-controlled. The head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

In contrast, the curtain airbag in the earlier test deployed too late, and the dummy’s head ended up between the airbag and the side structure.

Chevrolet Sonic Earns 2015 Top Safety Pick Exterior
- image 629536

The Sonic also has good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must have good ratings in those four tests and a good or acceptable small overlap rating.

The Sonic is available with an optional forward collision warning system that earns a basic rating from IIHS for front crash prevention.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: