Small Cars: From Nice to Naughty List?

     In the midst of summer gas prices, CBS’s John Blackstone complained about Americans’ preference for larger, less fuel efficient cars while he praised a “micro car” frequently used by city-dwelling Europeans.

     But now that a new study casts doubt on the safety of the smallest models of cars on the road, Blackstone’s CBS colleagues have changed direction.

     On the June 28 “Evening News,” CBS’s John Blackstone praised the European-designed Smart USA ForTwo, a “micro car” that is popular in Europe. But, Blackstone complained, “America’s ‘bigger is better’ attitude will have to do a U-turn for the $15,000 micro car to catch on.”

     Blackstone dismissed safety as a valid concern, pointing to the ForTwo’s steel roll cage as proof that the vehicle was safe for highway driving, even though the engine tops out at a mere 90 miles per hour and has low horsepower. In other words, it’s hardly a car suitable for highway driving alongside massive tractor trailers.

     Now with just six days until Christmas, his CBS colleagues essentially told viewers yes, Virginia, there is a tradeoff between safety and fuel efficiency.

     “Higher gas prices have prompted many drivers to consider switching to smaller cars that may use less fuel, but you may be sacrificing safety,” co-anchor Julie Chen noted as she introduced a story by correspondent Thalia Assuras on a new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

     “It’s basically, it’s like putting a featherweight into the ring with a heavyweight,” Adrian Lund of IIHS told Assuras, comparing mini cars with larger model cars, SUVs, and trucks on the road. Lund added later that “If you’re shopping for safety, vehicles this small aren’t the best to begin with.”

     Lund group crash-tested models including the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit, and the Mini Cooper, all of which are larger than the mini car Blackstone promoted in June.

     The bottom line? “Mini cars look smart and save on fuel, but what you get on sass and savings you lose on safety,” Assuras alliteratively asserted.