Washington — Small cars, which have become more popular with the fluctuation in gas prices, are becoming better equipped to protect motorists in serious crashes, according to tests by the insurance industry.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave top scores on front-end crash tests for several 2009 small cars, released Wednesday. Three vehicles—the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix, which share the same underpinnings and are considered corporate twins, and the Suzuki SX4—also received top scores in side protection.

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