So what's the safest SUV in America? It's an understandable question to ask, and frankly, we can't give you a clean answer. That's actually a good thing, because it's the result of so many SUVs crossing the threshold of what is considered extremely safe. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (aka the federal government) crash tests vehicles and publishes ratings based on a five-star system, the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is ultimately the agency that delivers the most thorough and comprehensive array of safety tests.
Besides the side crash test effectively shared with NHTSA, the IIHS has subjected cars to an offset frontal crash test since the 1990s. This was directly responsible for cars being redesigned (or flat-lining in sales) after "Poor" or "Marginal" scores showed they weren't as safe as other crash tests indicated, and in the last decade-plus, it's been unheard of for any new passenger vehicle to get something other than the best-possible score of "Good." As a result of this industry-wide improvement, the IIHS has added new crash tests that similarly called out deficient designs and subsequently improved the crashworthiness of future models: the small-overlap frontal test. The Institute then turned its attention to crash prevention, applying grades to the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems that have rapidly become expected features in new cars and SUVs. They also rate headlights, which in the early days at least, resulted in most cars getting low scores ... and then getting much better headlights in subsequent model years.
Performing sufficiently well in all of the above IIHS tests results in a new vehicle being named a Top Safety Pick+. The + basically signifies strong enough standard headlight scores, so there's even more selections that otherwise meet the crash worthiness and prevention threshold. Those get a Top Safety Pick award. You can read more about the award criteria here.
You can find the full, up-to-date list of the Top Safety Pick+ award winners here on the comprehensive IIHS website. Below is the list of 2021 and 2022 model year winners as of Oct. 16, 2021. Since then, the IIHS has introduced a new, more stringent side crash test that resulted in all compact SUVs but the Mazda CX-5 receiving lower scores in the side test. Other SUVs were not tested as of this writing. The IIHS will not be stripping awards for 2022, however. The new test's results will be applied to the award criteria starting in 2023.
The Safest Small SUVS
The Safest Midsize SUVs
The Safest Small Luxury SUVs
The Safest Midsize Luxury SUVs
Cadillac XT6: Safety Features
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class: Safety Features