One car appears to disintegrate on contact, whereas the other holds up well, but does that mean one is safe and the other is not?

In one of the most unique looks we've seen comparing two vehicles undergoing the same crash test, the Chevy Bolt holds itself together quite well, whereas the BMW i3 appears to just fall apart, but from a safety standpoint, does outwards appearance at and just after impact determine safe or unsafe?

Not necessarily...

The video opens with the IIHS small overlap frontal test, the most brutal and difficult to pass crash test from the IIHS. Now, before we dive into the damage done the structures, potential for injuries, etc., let's first examine how both vehicles fared in IIHS testing. Note both vehicles received a "good" rating in the small overlap frontal test.

Chevrolet Bolt IIHS

Chevrolet Bolt IIHS

BMW i3 IIHS

BMW i3 IIHS

2017 Chevrolet Bolt IIHS summary of small overlap front test:

Structure

The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of the lower interior of 12 cm at the lower hinge pillar. Upper interior intrusion measured 7-8 cm at the hinge pillar and instrument panel.Injury measures

Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Restraints and dummy kinematics

The dummy’s movement was well controlled. The dummy’s head loaded the frontal airbag, which stayed in front of the dummy until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and has sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

2017 BMW i3 IIHS summary of small overlap front test:

Structure

The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of the lower interior of 6 cm at the lower hinge pillar. Upper interior intrusion measured 3-4 cm at the hinge pillar and instrument panel.

Injury measures

Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Restraints and dummy kinematics

The dummy’s movement was well controlled. Because the car was deflected off the barrier and decelerated more gradually than is typical in this test, the dummy’s head moved toward the inflated frontal airbag but never reached it before the head began to rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and has sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. The side torso airbag also deployed.