The 80s, when vehicles were at their lightest and full size pickups weren't even crash-rated? When thin sheet metal was atop an unyielding chassis with no crumple zones or air bags? Hollow doors without side-impact beams, roof barely supported by formed sheet metal with no rollover protection? I bet the new compact car can support the truck on its roof better than the truck can support the car.
Don't forget the lack of head restraints, so the back of your head can smash the rear window.
The Matrix's roof pillars were rated for 3 times the car's weight.
Boron steel is three times stronger than regular steel. It used in many key areas to improve crash safety now, and was likely in the Matrix roof pillars. The passenger cabin cage on the Smart is made of it. It's seeing a lot of use for weight reduction. Materials science hasn't stood still.
The boron steel cage on the Smart helps protect against being crushed, but if the vehicle is really light then it still leaves you with a whole lot of energy shoved through you as the car bounces off of the other vehicle (as demonstrated in the Youtube video that Shatto posted) and more jolts as secondary collisions happen.
I think the Smart actually shunts a majority of the force around the occupants. It's the same principles used for building building bridges and skyscrapers. It does well crash tests, and weights about the same as the Metro.
It does have a disadvantage against a heavier vehicle, but as long as there's commercial trucks on the road, we all face that. This is really an argument for mandating lighter vehicles. Heavier only makes you safer at the expense of others safety.
I went to a Lord Fusor class this Spring and what the new cars 2013 and up are using is Advance Metal Technology. Their very light weight for the new up and coming fuel mileage rules but are more safe then the cars of today.
Every year the cars are becoming safer.
The down side of this is that these cars will total a lot easier. So in a way we are getting closer to throw away cars.
closer and closer? we pretty much are as once plastic cracks there aint no fixing it... all the subframe pieces distort and bend badly that they need to be cut out and replaced as noithign is bolted in anymore so thats a crapload of labor so yes cars do total alot easier i think.