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2012 Fiat 500 gets rare tiny car bravado, top IIHS safety pick

After modifications to improve driver's seat protection in frontal and rear crashes, the 2012 Fiat 500 has received a rare designation for a subcompact car — Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The designation applies only to Fiats built after July 2011, and the minicar joins the 2011 Ford Fiesta among the few small cars to receive the top safety classification.

2012 Fiat 500 gets rare tiny car bravado, top IIHS safety pick 1

According to the IIHS, the award requires a car to earn the highest ratings–known simply as "good" — in front, side, rear, and rollover tests. Top honorees also must include a standard electronic stability control system, now a Federal requirement.

The front crashworthiness evaluation uses a 40-mph offset crash, while the side evaluation slams a barrier into the test car at 31 mph. The rear protection is evaluated by hitting the stationary vehicle at 20 mph, and the roof crush test provides good scores if the test car withstands four times its own weight.

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