Buying a new car? It pays to spring for the safety options. That's the message from the Institute for Highway Safety.
Toyota's popular Prius Hybrid, which many Hollywood celebrities drive, got top marks for front and side crash protection, but only when equipped with the $650 optional side impact airbags. Take out the airbags and the Prius got poor marks in side-impact tests.
And the Institute says Toyota needs to do more to make Prius safer when it gets hit from behind.
"We think that the rear crash protection could be a little better and there we're looking at the risk of neck injury,” comments Adrian Lund, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Among other small cars the Honda Civic and the Subaru Impreza scored well, but Volkswagen’s New Beatle, the Suzuki Forenza and the Ford Focus all scored poorly in side impact tests.
This new round of tests also focused on minivans, Chevy's Uplander suffered one big problem.
"In the test, this seat actually becomes completely loose. Now that's part of the restraint system. That just shouldn't happen,” Lund explains.
But for the first time a minivan got top marks for safety, the Kia Sedona is being dubbed the safest minivan you can buy.
"The improvement that we see in the Sedona is really important because people really do buy minivans to protect their families, and so it's really important that those vehicles in particular offer the kind of safety their families are looking for,” Lund says.
Other minivans that got good marks included the Honda Odessey, the Toyota Sienna and the Nissan Quest, giving families a few more safe choices.