WTF? IMO I think the safety ratings are crap when it comes to judging some cars. Have you really looked at some of the cars out there that get 5 stars? They're weak. Let me ask you, If you had billions of dollars at stake, would you optimize your car to do well at the 35 to 40 mph that it will be tested at and spend less money and make more profit? Or, would you instead spend more money to make it safe at higher speeds and save lives? How much do you think they make per life they save?
I believe there are some manufactures that fudge and optimize their car for the safety ratings. If the car is designed to crumple faster, then it disperses the energy quicker making their car seem extremely safe at 40 mph. But what happens if you are going 30mph and another car is going 30 mph? now you have a 60 mph crash. And, since the crumple zones have exhausted themselves at 40mph, you're screwed!
So, if this is true, how can you find a car that is built strong enough to truly protect your family? Well, In my opinion, you look for signs of strength in places the manufactures never talk about. Things like the Hinges. I mean hell, if they are skimping and putting a weeny ass stamped metal hinge on the door, what else are they skimping on? I'd also look at the "B" pillar if it was a 4 door. If you can easily wrap your hand around the "b" pillar, how strong will it really be in a side crash? Get hit at 50mph instead of the 37 that it was tested at and your ass is probably toast.
Let's talk about sheet metal too. I know of a small car that people rave about all the time. Saying how safe it is. But push on the front fender and the metal is as thin as a pop can. What type of protection is that gonna really give you?