In the days before airbags, crumple zones, high strength steel and electronic stability control, many American drivers equated “safe” with “large.” While a 1975 Chevy Vega may have offered better fuel economy than a 1975 Chevy Impala, many buyers opted for the safety of mass over the benefits of fuel economy.

Today, that generalization might still hold true to some extent--especially in collisions involving a significant difference in mass--yet buyers of small cars aren't nearly as unprotected. Chevrolet’s new Sonic compact, for example, has just been chosen as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick,” bringing the total number of its compact cars earning the award to three (both the Volt and the Cruze are also Top Safety Picks).

To qualify, cars must earn a rating of “good” in frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. Cars must also come equipped with electronic stability control in all trim levels.

The Sonic benefits from GM’s StabiliTrak stability control system, and protects occupants with 10 airbags and a safety cage that consists of 60 percent high strength steel. Power comes from either a standard 1.8-liter, four cylinder engine or an optional 1.4-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine, which is said to return up to 40 mpg in highway fuel economy.

Look for the 2012 Chevy Sonic to hit dealers this fall.



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