The most unsafe car models ever made
Many things cross our minds as we fly down the freeway on the way to work. Oddly, safety seldom enters into it — though it’s deceptively easy to lose your life on the road. How safe is your vehicle? If it’s on this list, perhaps you should proceed with caution.
If you’ve driven a 1978-86 Audi 5000, you may have found yourself going faster than intended… while braking.
It’s baffling that this car’s idle stabilization system design flaw never led to a recall. It’s also incredible that the manufacturer kept building cars with the same issue for so many years.
Even more puzzling is that Audi typically has a great reputation when it comes to engineering. While it’s rare, you’ll still see many of these vehicles on the road today from time to time, though hopefully not in your rearview mirror.
The Kia Forte is an attractive car for many consumers, because it’s a fun car for the price and gets great gas mileage. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has labeled a few years’ models as top safety picks, so it’s at least passably safe, though perhaps it’s not this vehicle’s forte (groan).
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests tell a similar story: It’s bounced between four and 5-Star safety ratings throughout the years. Unfortunately, it seems to have a high fatality rate among its drivers and passengers.
Ralph Nader went after the Chevy Corvair with a vengeance in the seminal 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed. Nader drew criticism for using the Corvair as an example of everything wrong with a vehicle but, while other vehicles made similar safety faux pas, the Corvair was still incredibly dangerous.
The Corvair featured a swing-axle suspension system, which made the vehicle prone to over-steering, and weak hinges connecting the hood to the frame caused the car to come apart during a collision. Nonetheless, the Chevy Corvair remains a favorite among classic car enthusiasts.
The Bronco II
The Ford Bronco is infamous for its own connection to unsafe, but the 1984-1990 Bronco II earned a deadly reputation for another reason. All trucks with narrow wheelbases are prone to flipping over, but the Bronco II is especially clumsy. The wheelbase was made far too narrow to be safe.
Ford shot itself in the foot by ignoring the concerns of its own engineers, failing to make recommended design corrections that ended up costing drivers their lives. In 1992, three people per 10,000 units sold met their end in a rollover accident.
The Chevrolet Camaro is notorious for speed and, while we can’t say for sure, we assume that’s why it’s involved in so many fatal collisions. For multiple years in a row, the Camaro received 5-Star safety ratings. However, even the safest car in the world becomes unsafe at a dangerously high velocity.
The Camaro also features rear-wheel drive. While proponents of rear-wheel drive cars often tout this as advantageous for handling sharp turns, most drivers find that front-wheel drive cars are generally safer in a wider variety of road conditions.
The Smart Car’s main appeal was its impressive 40 mile-per-gallon gas mileage. But, now that the new models are electric, you have to wonder why anyone would want to risk dying in such a dangerously minuscule car. Perhaps it’s time for a name change.
The car wasn’t a complete disaster in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s tests, but these tests only measure how well the car responds to collisions with a fixed object, not how well it handles being trampled by an SUV triple its size.
Nissan Versa Note
As of 2019, this subcompact hatchback model is officially dead — and for good reason. According to the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the Versa Note was more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than average car models built between 2013 and 2017.
Safety tests run by the NHTSA lend some insight into why the Versa Note is so dangerous, stating, “The car is rated at a middling three stars in terms of frontal crash safety. When you ride shotgun in this car you’re gambling with your life — the safety rating for the front passenger falls to two stars in terms of a frontal collision.”
How this car managed to wind up on this list is somewhat puzzling. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has repeatedly dubbed the Kia Soul a top safety pick, and it holds an overall safety rating of five stars from the NHTSA.
Despite its stellar performance in crash tests, statistics show the Kia Soul is more likely to carry your soul to the afterlife than the average car. It’s been involved in 84 driver fatalities per million of its kind. The car’s placement on this list may have less to do with the vehicle itself and the person driving it.
This one was a bit embarrassing for a Suzuki. The auto company sued Consumer Reports for allegedly fixing a road test to paint the Samurai as being prone to tumbling. The only problem was that the Samurai actually really was dangerous.
Recovered internal correspondence revealed that Suzuki was aware of the vehicle’s rollover problem. “It is imperative that we develop a crisis plan that will primarily deal with the ‘roll’ factor,” stated a 1985 memorandum. “Because of the narrow wheelbase, similar to the Jeep, the car is bound to turn over.” Suzuki has settled over 200 lawsuits involving rolling Samurai.
Another Kia makes the list! This time, the reason seems a little clearer. While a 4-out-of-5-star rating for overall safety doesn’t seem too much of a cause for concern, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did issue a warning that the rear passenger appears to be at risk during a sidelong collision.
During the test, the left rear door collapsed inward, causing the interior panel to strike the passenger’s torso and accelerating the test dummy’s spine. This is a clear indicator of a potential spine injury. Not good.
1984 Pontiac Fiero
The unfortunately named Pontiac Fiero truly earned its moniker. You know how cars in movies inexplicably explode upon impact? Well, it didn’t even take a crash to cause the Pontiac Fiero to burst into flames. It got to the point where 20 Fieros would catch fire a week in 1987!
Reportedly, the problem had to do with an oil leak, causing engine rods to snap and tear through the engine. Pontiac was forced to recall all the vehicles six years after they hit the market. No word on whether the fiasco changed the way Pontiac came up with names of vehicles.
The Ford Pinto’s notoriously bad design was enough to turn a simple fender bender into a scene from a Michael Bay film. Someone at Ford had the bright idea to put the fuel tank in the rear. This, coupled with cost constraints (which made the tank walls dangerously thin), turned the Pinto into a literal car bomb.
Surprisingly, the death rate of Pinto drivers and passengers was somewhat average when compared to similar cars made by Ford’s competitors. This fact did little to neutralize the public relations nightmare for Ford. The company recalled the Pinto, reinforcing the fuel tank and making the vehicle safe to drive. It would take years for Ford’s reputation to recover.
From 2012-15, Chrysler 200 drivers were at the highest risk of dying in a crash of any other vehicle of the time period. The 2013 and 2014 Chrysler 200s performed remarkably poorly in the NHTSA’s side pole crash tests (only one star), but the problem looks like it was addressed in the later models (along with several other improvements).
However, the Chrysler 200 was short-lived, and production of the model ceased in 2017. Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne called the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart the “least financially rewarding enterprises that we’ve carried out inside FCA in the last eight years.”
The Chevrolet Spark is a far cry from what someone might consider a sports car. It boasts a meager 98 horsepower (less than a Prius and barely more than a Smart Car). While older models of the Spark performed respectably in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, they’ve still found their onto this list. Why?
In this case, size matters and, unfortunately, the Spark is seriously lacking in that department. This attractive feature, which keeps its price down and gas mileage up, makes its driver and passengers prone to fatal collisions.
This ironically named car, produced by the People’s Republic of China, was set to be exported to European countries in 2007. That plan stopped abruptly when people caught sight of a now-notorious European New Car Assessment Programme crash-test result. The implications of the test were nothing short of horrific.
When the vehicle collided with a wall at 40 mph, the car practically folded in half. It’s highly doubtful a driver would have survived the crash. After this, it was back to the drawing board. China is expected to try to export the car again after making some much-needed safety improvements.
The Mitsubishi Mirage has a stellar safety rating but, despite this, it’s had the most fatalities of any car between 2013 and 2017. The car has performed well in virtually all collision tests — save the overlap crash test in 2014 — yet statistics show it’s one of the most dangerous cars to drive, why?
This subcompact’s small size seems to be the culprit. Against large SUVs, trucks, and larger cars, the Mirage doesn’t stand a chance in a collision. Still, the Mirage remains an attractive option for drivers seeking an affordable vehicle with good gas mileage.
2014 Porsche 911 GT3
Safety probably isn’t the first thing on someone’s mind when they enter a Porsche dealership, but the problem with the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 is dire enough to give the most reckless thrill-seeker pause. The engine has been known to literally burst into flames.
Apparently, this is due to problems with the engine’s connecting rods. The situation was serious enough for Porsche to replace all the engines in a massive recall and — strongly advise owners to stop driving until the problem was rectified.
Unlike most of the modern cars on this list, the Nissan 370Z has not been tested by the National Highway and Traffic Administration, so we don’t know if the car’s design can be blamed for having double the amount of fatalities during collisions. However, we’ve got a sneaking suspicion the car’s high speed capabilities are more to blame than any safety-design flaws.
While the car’s attractive price tag (especially used models) make it tempting for people in the market for a sports car, this may also contribute to less experienced drivers taking the wheel (and pressing down on the accelerator).
Let’s be honest: Safety probably isn’t the highest priority for someone considering purchasing the ultimate midlife crisis-mobile. Judging by driver fatality rates, the Corvette is one of the most dangerous cars on the road, with 9.8 driver deaths per billion miles.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be much information available in terms of crash test research results for the Chevrolet Corvette. Even so, we’ve got an inkling the high fatality rate of Corvette drivers and passengers has more to do with the impressive top speed and rear-wheel handling of the vehicle than any glaring safety design flaws.
The National Highway and Traffic Administration hasn’t released safety-test information for each year’s model of the Subaru BRZ, but judging by the 2016 test results, there’s nothing wrong with this car from a safety standpoint. Nonetheless, drivers and passengers of this vehicle are more likely to suffer a fatal collision.
Once again, it seems this may have more to do with the driver than the car’s design. Like many other sports cars, it has a high top speed and rear-wheel drive, which could mean disaster for an inexperienced driver. Ease up on the gas!
Like it’s little brother, the Versa Note, the Nissan Versa doesn’t have a particularly impeccable rating for safety. Unlike the Note however, Nissan does not appear to have any plan to cease production on this particular vehicle model in 2019.
While it faired marginally better than the Note according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that didn’t prevent it from being involved in 94 driver fatalities per million models. Once again, the front passenger fares the worst of all — with a mere three-star safety rating compared an overall rating of four stars.
Once again, there’s nothing particularly dangerous about this car — other than its size. In fact, each model of the car has kept a 5-Star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One could make the argument that it’s not this car that’s unsafe to its driver and passengers, but it’s the other, larger cars on the road.
Either way you look at it, the mortality rate when driving or riding in this car is relatively high. Despite this, the Honda Fit remains a popular choice for people seeking a reasonably priced compact commuter car.
Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4WD
The pickup truck is a rare sight to see on a list like this. In truth, we may be as surprised as you! There doesn’t seem to be any discernible reason according to collision safety tests. Sure, it’s got a small risk of rolling over, but no more than your average pickup.
Nonetheless, drivers of the Nissan Titan Crew Cab have a higher fatality rate than most other modern vehicles on the market. We’re just speculating, but perhaps the Titan’s four-wheel-drive capabilities means more drivers are willing to drive in sub-optimal road conditions.
Yugo GV? More like Yu-Gonna crash! The Yugo GV is not only one of the ugliest cars ever made, it’s also one of the most dangerous. GV stands for “Good Value,” and while the $3,990 price tag was tempting, you’re truly taking your life in your hands when you grab the steering wheel of one of these death traps.
The Yugo GV was poorly constructed using cheap metal, ensuring the driver and its passengers stood little chance in a collision. Couple this with its hideous interior and exterior, as well as its shoddy engine — and it’s easy to see why this Yugoslavian export has earned its reputation as one of the worst cars ever made.
The Hyundai Accent is another car who’s main problem seems to be its size. That said, the subcompact car’s performance in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s collision tests left a few things to be desired.
Namely, the rear passenger didn’t seem to fare well in a sidelong collision into a barrier in controlled tests. As for the person behind the wheel of a Hyundai Accent four-door mini sedan, they risk the highest rate of fatality when compared to other modern vehicles, at 104 driver deaths per million cars.
Dodge Avenger 2WD
The 2014 Dodge Avenger had one of the highest death rates among drivers between 2012 and 2015. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the vehicle’s performed decently (not excellent) in collision tests. In particular, the vehicle does not seem to handle sidelong pole collision well (a test that simulates crashing into a tree or post), scoring only two stars on this test.
Though the price made it an option for thrifty consumers, the Dodge Avenger was never particularly well liked, mainly due to its reputation for being unreliable, not fuel efficient, and uncomfortable. It’s no wonder why 2014 marked the last year of production for the unwanted vehicle.
Another car that was built for speed — the Dodge Challenger’s design doesn’t seem to be at fault for the high number of fatalities it’s seen over the years. While it’s doubtful crash safety is the highest priority when designing a sports car, five stars from the NHTSAd ain’t too bad.
Once again, the car’s drivers appear to be at fault for this one making the list. Apparently, it’s just too hard to keep your foot off the gas of a Dodge Challenger. Slow down, people!
The Impala is a popular model that Chevrolet has consistently reinvented over the course of many decades. Of course, modern iterations of the Chevy Impala look nothing like the models of the late ‘50s. In terms of safety, the newer models have shown a higher rate of driver deaths than the average vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s collision safety tests, the drivers of 2013, 2014, and 2016 impalas are at considerable risk during side barrier collisions. However, this problem seems to have been fixed in the latest iterations.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon
Despite being branded differently, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and 2015 GMC Canyon are nearly identical. The trucks didn’t perform too poorly in collision tests, though the rollover risk left something to be desired. However, one major construction flaw discovered too late led to a massive recall.
Many of the back seat frames weren’t properly secured when they were built. This means a relatively minor accident could send unlucky passengers on an early backseat ride to heaven. GM Dealers will inspect the pickup and fix free of charge if the truck is determined to be one of the 48,000 affected.
Hyundai Veloster Turbo
This cheap, zippy sports car is a blast to drive, which may be why it ended up on this list. It’s got the same fatal accident rate as the Nissan Versa Note, but performed better on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s crash tests.
The Hyundai Veloster Turbo scored an overall score of five stars in terms of collision safety. From each angle and seat the vehicle never scored below four stars, so what gives? Regardless, Hyundai decided to redesign the 2019 model of the Veloster Turbo. The NHTSA has yet to release test results for the updated model.