When it comes to automotive safety, size does matter -- but it isn't everything.
Increasingly, automakers are turning to a new generation of safety features and design tricks to help make today's vehicles safer than ever. The real standouts are those gadgets, like electronic stability control, designed to help avoid accidents in the first place. But in the end, no amount of engineering can defy the laws of physics when, inevitably, a crash happens.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency that performs a battery of crash tests on every car sold in the United States, if all other things are equal, a heavier vehicle will generally offer better protection in a crash than a smaller one. This is particularly the case in two-vehicle crashes when a large vehicle is pitted against a smaller one.
|13 top safety picks|
"If you put your children in a large car, they will be safer than if you put them in a small econobox," says Jonathan Linkov, managing editor of autos at Consumer Reports magazine, which ranks the safest vehicles each year based on crash tests performed by NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which performs its own set of collision trials.
But just because one vehicle has more mass than another doesn't mean it will necessarily offer the most protection, says Joanne Helperin, senior features editor for Edmunds.com.
In a crash, "a lot comes down to technology," she says.