Fender-benders in small cars can be a lot more expensive than the speeds involved might otherwise indicate, according to a new study by the IIHS. The results of low-speed crash testing show that some cars can rack up thousands of dollars in repair bills - the Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf) (pictured) topped the most-expensive list at $9,511 in total damage.

Testing was performed by driving the cars into the barriers at 3mph (5km/h) and 6mph (10km/h) for each of the front and rear corner and front and rear straight-on scenarios. The reason for the high repair costs includes the extremely tight packaging constraints of modern small cars. There is no room to be left unused, so even minor intrusions on the car's exterior dimensions can cause a large amount of secondary damage. Also, parts like HID headlights and LED tail lights can be expensive in their own rights, costing several orders of magnitude more than their historic counterparts, raising the costs directly as well.

Additional factors include a combination of improperly engineered bumpers causing the small cars to 'submarine' below the barrier used to simulate another car's bumper, causing a great deal more damage than if the bumper had absorbed the impact. Some bumpers, however, simply weren't up to the task and collapsed.

Least expensive to repair was the Ford Focus, which after a full array of front and rear corner impacts plus front and rear straight-on impacts required just $3,031 to repair. Toyota's youth-targeted Scion brand filled in the next two spots with the xB and xD costing $3,697 and $4,135 to repair, respectively. Surprisingly, there doesn't appear to be a clear relationship between initial vehicle price and repair cost, however, as the Hyundai Elantra, which starts at just under $14,000 checked in just $600 cheaper to repair than the VW Rabbit, while the Mazda 3 was just $700 more expensive to repair than the Scion xD despite starting out nearly $1,000 above the Hyundai's MSRP.

Other good performers on the test include the Nissan Sentra, Dodge Caliber, Subaru Impreza, Suzuki SX4 and Saturn Astra, all of which came in below $6,000 in repair costs. The Toyota Prius came in as second-most expensive, just ahead of the Elantra. The three worst-scoring cars - the Rabbit, Prius and Elantra - all suffered more than $4,000 damage in a single test of the four-test suite.