The 2014 Smart ForTwo may be the smallest car sold in the U.S., but it may have the highest airbag-to-occupant ratio: eight airbags for two people. Despite its diminutive size, it does all right in safety ratings. Smart says its "Tridion" safety-cell construction offers occupant protection equivalent to that of larger vehicles. That may be, but the Smart is now one of the older designs on the road, and crash safety standards have improved greatly since it was launched in Europe 15 years ago.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Smart its top "Good" rating in three out of four categories: frontal moderate offset, side impact, and roof strength test results, though the protection for head restraints and seats loses one notch and is rated "Acceptable." The IIHS hasn't rated the Smart on its new, tougher Small-Overlap Front Crash test.
The laws of physics are the laws of physics, however. The IIHS set up a frontal-offset crash between a Smart ForTwo and a larger, heavier Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Mass and momentum being what they are, the Smart's occupants didn't fare particularly well.
As for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it hasn't rated the gasoline Smart since it revised its ratings starting with the 2011 model year. So the gasoline ForTwo--both coupe and cabrio--get three stars out of five for rollover protection, but aren't rated for Overall, Moderate-Overlap Front Crash, or Side safety. (Under the rating system used through 2010, the Smart earned top five-star ratings for side impact but only three and four stars for frontal impact.)
Oddly, however, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive model--with its battery pack in the floor and the gasoline engine replaced by an electric motor--has been rated by the NHTSA for the 2013 model year. It gets four stars out of five for Overall, Moderate-Overlap Front Crash, and Rollover safety, and five stars for Side crash.
Outward visibility in the Smart is excellent, and of course it's so small, it practically parks itself. The ForTwo also includes the usual suite of electronic safety systems, including electronic stability control and traction control. But how safe the driver and passenger will feel in it at speeds above those traveled in the city is a personal decision.