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NHTSA Warns on Smart Crash Tests

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Smart's fortwo city car is on sale -- and playing hard to get, if our informal poll of dealers is holding true nationwide. But the government's car safety agency is sounding a warning over the fortwo's crash-test performance, the Associated Press reports.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently performed a series of crash tests on the new two-door microcar, which is being sold in the U.S. by Daimler AG for the first time. The smart performed well in frontal and rear crashes, earning a four-star rating for driver crash protection and three stars for passenger crash protection.

For the side-impact tests, the NHTSA awarded the car five stars -- with a caveat. During testing, the two-door's driver-side door popped open. That, the NHTSA says, could lead to a person being thrown from the vehicle. The side-impact test measures only the car's ability to withstand the impact itself.

"Given the amount of attention on smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles in general and this vehicle specifically, we wanted to try to get the vehicle tested and the results out there as quickly as possible," said Rae Tyson, a NHTSA spokesperson.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a private testing group sponsored by the insurance industry, has yet to report its crash-test ratings for the smart fortwo.

Smart says the fortwo has been designed to get four-star crash ratings and 41 miles per gallon on the highway. The car is under 9 feet long and weighs about 1800 pounds, the Detroit News reports.

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