The latest round of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is complete and mixed results are in for six midsized SUVs. While overall performance has generally improved, being in an SUV is no guarantee that you will be safer than if you were in a car in the event of an accident. The IIHS evaluated the Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra, Toyota FourRunner, Ford Explorer, Chevy Trailblazer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. All but the Trailblazer scored an Good on the frontal offset test with the Chevy getting an Acceptable.

The side impact test is where there was more divergence. Only the two Nissans lacked standard side airbags and the difference that made was clear. Without the side bags the Nissans were only Marginal, while the option bumped that score to a Good. The Jeep and Chevrolet both have standard side curtains but lack torso units. The result was that weak side structures yielded poor protection for drivers even though the vehicles ride higher than cars. All the other trucks had curtain and torso bags. The bottom line: if you must have an SUV, make sure you get side airbags with both head and torso protection.

[Source: Insurance institute for Highway Safety]

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