Small hatches have never been cheaper to buy nor safer to drive.
So it is not surprising that nearly 13 per cent of new-car buyers shop in the entry-level market segment.
But while the purchase price of these vehicles may be a major part of the attraction, a survey by SGIO Insurance has revealed the high cost of crash repairs could see many of these vehicles written off in a minor accident.
Some of the cars tested racked up repair bills of up to 70 per cent of their purchase price in "walking pace" collisions.
And according to SGIO Insurance research manager Robert McDonald, 70 per cent of insurance claims lodged are for low-speed collisions.
Nine of the top-selling small vehicles in Australia were crashed at 10km/h to see how their bumpers performed in a collision.
SGIO calculates repair costs after ramming cars into a bumper-like barrier at 10km/h.
It is the same standard used in Germany, North America, Japan and the UK.
"Even travelling at only 10km/h, we found many of the cars had poor-performing bumper design which resulted in high collision repair costs.
"Our test shows the importance of insurance, as well as serving as a reminder that your car choice could impact your premium.
"The type of vehicle and the cost of repairs to that vehicle have an influence on premiums.
"The Barina can be cheaper to insure (than other vehicles in this test) by up to a couple of hundred dollars.
"We also determine whether it is economical to repair a car after a collision based on the damage and the percentage of the new purchase price it costs to repair the car."
Mr McDonald said the test revealed a vast difference in repair costs across the range of top-selling small vehicles.
"Of the vehicles tested, repair costs for a rear collision range from $1200 to more than $7600."
When comparing damage for a front and rear collision, the Toyota Yaris and the Honda Jazz were the most expensive to repair.
The Yaris cost $13,440 to repair (70.8 per cent of its new purchase price) and the Jazz cost $13,754 (69.5 per cent of its new purchase price).
The best performer in the test was the Holden Barina, which had a repair cost for a front and rear collision of $2574, or 14.3 per cent of its new purchase price.
"Poorly designed bumpers can slide under other bumpers on impact, causing more damage to both vehicles in a collision," Mr McDonald said.
"Because of its effective bumper design, the Barina did not suffer structural damage and the damage was isolated to the bumper components.
"It is possible to have effective bumpers on small cars that protect the more expensive parts like headlights and the radiator."
Mr McDonald said most new cars had an absorption beam behind the front bumper, designed to soften the impact, but tests show some are more effective than others at deflecting damage.
The study also found not all new small cars sold here have a rear bumper absorption beam, while the same cars in Europe have them fitted as standard.
Mr McDonald estimated removing absorption beams would save manufacturers less than $5 but said their removal potentially added hundreds of dollars to insurance premiums.
"It's a short-sighted move because it's not in the car manufacturer's interest to cut corners like this," he said.
"If the car is a write-off, it won't be repaired."Instead, it will be broken down for parts and disappear from the marketplace."
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