Crossover vehicles, also known as small SUVs, are some of the most popular vehicles in America right now. Millions are sold every year, and experts say the segment is poised for explosive growth.

But consumers, especially ones using these cars to transport their families, should take caution. These cars may be popular; many may be unsafe.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit organization whose tests are taken seriously by auto manufacturers, says that only 1 of 13 crossovers tested earned a grade of “good” on its new small overlap front test. More disheartening, 11 of the cars earn ‘marginal’ and ‘poor’ grades.

IIHS announced the results of its testing Thursday morning. The small-overlap front test is a new one this year. It shows how a car will hold up when a front corner strikes a small object, like a tree or utility pole. These types of crashes are one of the most common causes of deaths on American highways, so IIHS developed this test so consumers have an accurate understanding of how their cars and safety equipment might perform in such an accident.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular crossover models and how they fared on this important test:

Ford Escape

Ford Escape

Sticker price: $22,700 - $30,850
Invoice: $21,395 - $28,769
Fuel economy: 22 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

Overall grade on IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Poor

The Escape is the best-selling crossover product on the market. It also ranked the worst in the new IIHS test, earning a ‘poor’ overall grade and a poor grade on structure.  On dummy injury measures, it got ‘good’ scores for chest and head/neck.

In a written statement, the company  said, “Ford takes seriously every industry development related to vehicle crash test performance. … This is the first time IIHS has conducted this type of test on small SUVs. We are reviewing its findings in the context of our current design evaluations.”
Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V

Sticker price: $22,795 - $28,795
Invoice: $21,413 - $27,030
Fuel economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

Overall grade on the IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Marginal

The CR-V is the second-best selling crossover in the country, behind only the Escape. Car shoppers will want to note that it receives a ‘marginal’ grade on this IIHS test and a ‘poor’ structural grade.

What does the poor structural evaluation mean? “That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure,” according to the IIHS report. “vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver’s head outboard, away from the protection of the frontal airbag.”
Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

Sticker price: $21,995 - $32,995
Invoice: $20,811 - $30,836
Fuel economy: 22 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

How it fared on the IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Good

Among all the crossovers that did poorly on this test, the Forester is the exception. It is the only one of 13 models tested to receive a ‘good’ overall grade. IIHS safety experts said Subaru engineers have paid attention and designed cars specifically to protect against these deadly crashes.

With the successful results, IIHS awarded the Forester a “Top Safety Pick Plus” status, its highest-possible rating, one that has only been given to 20 models. To qualify, vehicles must earn good ratings in at least four of the organization’s five tests, and no less than an ‘acceptable’ mark on the fifth.

IIHS notes the Forester “had good ratings for structure, restraints and kinematics, and all four injury measures on the dummy. The airbags worked as intended, and the space around the dummy was well-maintained.”
Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Sticker price: $23,300 - $28,410
Invoice: $21,786 - $26,563
Fuel economy: 24 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

How it fared on the IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Incomplete

This one is a head-scratcher. The RAV4 is one of the more popular small SUVs on the market, yet it was not tested.

IIHS reports that Toyota asked for a one-year delay in testing so that it could make changes to the car that would improve its test performance.

While we’re glad to hear Toyota is making changes that will improve the safety of its vehicles, we wonder if other automakers should have been afforded the same opportunity. 

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Sticker price: $19,170 - $24,895
Invoice: $18,361 - $23,845
Fuel economy: 24 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

How it fared on the IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Acceptable

Speaking of head-scratchers, here’s another. The light-selling Outlander Sport earned the second-best grade of all the crossovers tested, only trailing the Forester. It’s the only other car, among the 13 tested, to receive a passing grade.

The Outlander received ‘good’ scores in head/nick and chest dummy injury measures, and ‘acceptable’ grades in structure and restraints, as well as overall. With the performance, the Outlander also earned one of IIHS’ coveted ‘Top Safety Pick Plus’ designations.

Nissan Rogue

Nissan Rogue

Sticker price: $20,310 - $27,950
Invoice: $19,363 - $26,045
Fuel economy: 23 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway

How it fared on the IIHS small-overlap frontal test: Marginal

It’s never a good sign when the car is singled out for an egregiously bad performance, but IIHS goes to great measures to flog the Rogue.

“The structural performance of the Nissan Rogue is one of the worst IIHS engineers have seen,” the report says. “The front pillar of the Rogue’s door frame was pushed so far inside the occupant compartment that it was almost touching the driver seat.”
The rest of the crossover pack

The rest of the crossover pack

Here’s a quick look at other crossover vehicles’ performance in the new IIHS test:

Those receiving ‘marginal’ overall rankings: BMW X1, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Wrangler, Volkswagen Tiguan.

Those receiving ‘poor’ overall rankings: Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Buick Encore, Jeep Patriot.

Looking for more information on a specific car model or on the new small-overlap frontal test in general? You can find it on the IIHS website by clicking here.



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