This is interesting. We used to love our 1986 Jetta, not only for its 30something mpg for also because it felt very safe, as in very manueverable. My SUV driving contingent in the family used to make fun of us. We're just sad the car diedo n the side of 95 with almost 200K miles!
We drive a Volvo compact, nowhere near the great gas mileage, but it's been very safe (e.g., when we were rearended by a pickup truck driver)
From the Rocky Mountain Institute:
Laura Schewel is an analyst with MOVE - The Transportation Innovation Group and Noah Buhayar is a fellow at Rocky Mountain Institute .
Many consumers believe that the goals of a "safer car" and a "more fuel-efficient car" are at loggerheads, and that any increase in gas mileage will lead directly to increased fatalities.
This misconception is based in large part on a common assumption: The heavier the car, the safer it must be. Collectively, Americans have bought into this idea. The mass of the average personal vehicle in the U.S. has gone up 29% since 1987.
While that idea that more steel equals more protection seems intuitive, it turns out to be false. In fact, the best scientific research shows that automotive safety has nothing to do with vehicle weight, but everything to do with vehicle size and design.
Safety for you and your family
Heavier cars are not safer in a collision. Why? Cars are not simple, solid objects that collide like billiard balls on a table; they have crush zones and structural features designed to absorb impact.
The more crush zone available (the longer or wider the car) and the better the structural design, the safer the occupants will be in a crash.
These examples from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent, nonprofit organization that compiles fatality statistics, illustrate the point:
Drivers in a Dodge Neon or Chevrolet Cavalier (2,400 and 2,700 pounds, respectively) are twice as likely to die in their vehicles as drivers of Volkswagen Jettas or Honda Civics (2,300 and 2,700 pounds), due to the superior crash design and safety features of the Jetta and Civic.
Drivers of a Toyota 4Runner (the safest SUV) are 25 times less likely to die in their vehicles than those who drive Chevrolet Blazers -- the least-safe SUV and the least-safe personal vehicle -- again due to superior design. (Statistics cover model years 1995-1999.)