Reader Question: Are Volvos Still “Safest”?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Beth asks: Interested in your views on Volvo cars. Are they still considered safest vehicles?

My reply: Volvo will get mad at me, probably – but here’s the straight dope: Volvos used to be much safer than the average car; it was the main reason people bought Volvos (that and – at the time – their rep for being sturdy, durable vehicles). But that time was back in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and into the ’90s. In those days, other car companies sold other attributes – such as sex appeal, performance and styling. Safety was a backseat consideration; most people didn’t care – and the few that did, bought . . . Volvos.

But, the government began to mandate safety – forcing the other car companies to build their cars to be like Volvos. Over the years, safety became a sell for all car companies. So, today, there is only a little bit of difference, in safety terms, between Volvos and other cars.

The big difference is between cars of different sizes.

A compact Volvo is less safe than a full-sized Mercedes, for instance.

By which I mean less able to withstand impact forces in the event of a crash. That is what is meant by “safety,” as far as test scores and ratings are concerned. Not that car A (vs. car B) is less roadworthy – or more likely to crash.

In any event, the most important thing to know today – and yesterday – is that size matters. The larger a vehicle, the safer – more able to protect occupants in the event of a crash – it is.

This is true even in terms of new vs. older.

For example, you are more likely to survive a crash in a 1995 Ford Crown Victoria (a full-size sedan with a heavy steel frame) than in a 2018 Smart car, or even a Corolla – by dint of the larger car’s greater ability to absorb impact forces.

A new Volvo vs. a new size-equivalent rival may be slightly “safer” in terms of certain types of crash test scores. But the difference is much less than it once was.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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