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Small cars had a tough time passing crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports.

As a result of the grim results, widely consulted Consumer Reports yanked its "recommended" rating from two that did poorly -- Nissan Leaf electric car and Mazda5 mini-minivan.

IIHS crash-tested 12 mostly small cars and crossovers and the results weren't pretty. Four cars were rated poor overall, two were marginal and just five passed in the challenging small-overlap crash test, according to IIHS. Only one vehicle, the Mini Cooper Countryman, was rated good.

The group included a mix of alternative powertrains, with varying results. The Nissan Leaf, the nation's most popular electric car, fared poorly. But the extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt was acceptable, according to IIHS.

The models are being tripped up by what is known as the "small overlap front crash test."

It's a relatively new, and deliberately challenging, simulation of striking a lamppost or running into a narrow slice of the vehicle's width at 40 miles per hour, rather than directly head on. The test slams 20% of the car's width, on the driver's side, into the IIHS barrier.

It's a violent impact that can lift the rear end of the tested vehicle off the floor, send sheared-off parts skittering across the test pad and pivot the vehicle so it winds at a 90-degree angle to the direction it was going before the impact.

The crash forces are concentrated outside the area of a car or truck where nearly all the crash-absorbing structure is located. IIHS says it simulates what happens frequently in the real world.

With the latest tests, IIHS says it now evaluated 32 small cars for protection, and 13 were rated marginal or poor.

The best performer of the pack was the Countryman, which Joe Nolan, an IIHS senior vice president, praised as having given a "solid performance."

Here is how the latest models stacked up:

Good:

Mini Cooper Countryman

Average:

Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max Hybrid, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ.

Marginal:

Hyundai Veloster; Scion xB

Poor:

Nissan Leaf, Nissan Juke, Mazda5; Fiat 500L

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