By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Small cars, especially electric and hybrid cars, are more popular than ever.  But are they safe?  An insurance industry financed research group recently put small cars through new tougher crash tests and as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, the results were mixed.

The Mini Cooper Countryman was the only small car to receive a Good rating in crash tests conducted by The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety.  Joseph Nolan, Senior VP of Vehicle Research says, “The occupant was well-restrained. Side curtain airbags, frontal airbags, seat belts, all work great together.”

The Insurance Institute performed its newer small overlap test on 12 small cars.  The 40-mile per hour crash simulates what happens when the front corner of the car collides with another vehicle or tree.  It’s the first time the Institute performed this particular test on electric and hybrid vehicles.

The Ford C-Max Hybrid and electric Chevy Volt received Acceptable ratings.  The Volt’s electric competitor, the Nissan Leaf rated Poor.  Also rated Poor were the Fiat 500-L, the Nissan Juke and Mazda 5.   The Insurance Institute says passenger spaces in those cars came apart in the crash tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested 32 small cars over the past two years.   To check out the results, visit:

By the way, based on the poor ratings received in these most recent crash tests,  Consumer Reports has dropped the Nissan Leaf, and Mazda 5 from their recommended list.  For more information visit:

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