It may be tiny, but the 2012 Smart Fortwo has eight airbags fitted as standard equipment, despite having only two seating positions. It also includes the usual suite of electronic safety systems, including anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.
The result is that despite its diminutive proportions, the Smart Fortwo does OK in safety ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Smart its top "Good" rating for frontal offset, side impact, and roof strength test results, though the rear crash protection is down one notch to "Acceptable."
While the maker touts occupant protection equivalent to that of larger vehicles, provided by the "Tridion" safety-cell construction, the IIHS tested that theory by setting up a frontal-offset crash between the larger, heavier Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a Smart Fortwo. The occupants of the smaller car didn't fare particularly well in that situation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't rated the Fortwo using its new, more stringent testing procedures. So the car is unrated for overall, frontal crash, or side crash tests. The agency does give the car a mediocre three out of five stars for rollover protection. Under the old rating system, the Fortwo achieved top five-star ratings for side impact but earned only three and four stars for frontal impact.
On the positive side of the safety ledger, outward visibility is quite good. And, of course, parking the Smart car is ease personified. How vulnerable the driver and passenger feel at speed is a more personal question.