Why is there a safety penalty for mid/rear engine cars?

Front engine cars get a 5% bonus to safety, while mid and rear engine cars get 0%. This seems backwards to me. Wouldn’t it be better to not have a heavy engine crushing your legs in a collision? With the engine behind, there’s more room in front for crumple zone.

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You see, if the engine is in front it only crushes your legs. If the engine is behind you in the event of a collision it squishes you from behind and wedges you in a fiery wreck and you die.


Well, you’d actually be surprised at just how much the engine block actually protects the driver in an accident, too. It absorbs some of that impact, whereas in a mid or rear engined car, you don’t actually have more room for a crumple zone: Your gas tank is now up front, not in the back.

Squish a gas tank in an accident and everything becomes fire, the Pinto proved that.


Then again there is no hot exhaust up front to ignite the fuel.

Crumpling metal can make sparks, shorting electrical, potentially the hot exhaust of the car you just hit, there’s plenty of ways the fuel can ignite.

Granted, I understand that the odds of a ruptured fuel tank are pretty low, and even lower still for flat-out combustion.

Part of it is probably because of the fuel tank location, the other part, as you said, is because the engine is behind you.

After all, we need air bags and seat-belts to keep from going through the windshield. All that’s holding the engine in place is a handful of bolts. Yes, they’re fairly large bolts, but that’s little comfort when the engine’s going (from a relative perspective) from 0 to 100 in the same span of time you’re going from 100 to 0. And a hot chunk of aluminum full of spinning bits is exactly the type of thing you don’t want hitting you in the back of the head.

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Cars like the Lotus Elise are rather safe since the entire front end is a crumple zone, not just the front end up to the engine block. On the other end, cars like the Mini Cooper are also designed to have the engine slide under the car in the even of a collision and so allowing for a larger crumple zone.

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I believe all cars after the late-70’s or so have a slightly angled firewall to direct the engine away from the cabin space. If I remember correctly… I think it was Volvo who pioneered that that simple but effective concept.

That largely solved the engine intrusion problem, and had a major safety bonus because of the already stiff firewall up front; which from what I understand, mid and rear engined cars lack either up front or behind the cabin… but I’m just guessing here. I haven’t really seen any crash tests or ratings for mid or rear engined cars.

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Can’t comment for other cars, but my gas tank is in the middle of the car, where the transmission tunnel would normally be. If the gas tank is getting crushed there, I’m already super dead.