Though small cars are more popular as gas prices fluctuate, they offer less protection than larger vehicles. Most new small cars earn good ratings in frontal crash tests, but they are less safe during side and rear crashes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently tested 2009 models of the Chevrolet HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Saturn Astra, Suzuki SX4 and Toyota Matrix.

o Only the SX4 and Matrix earned high ratings for protection in side crashes.

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