These small SUVs got good grades in passenger-side crash tests


When we look to buy a vehicle, we usually check for the typical things that rev our hearts’ engines, such as roominess, horse power, technology and styling. But newly released ratings on the crash worthiness of several small SUVs indicate that we may need to consider how safe a vehicle is for the front passenger before we sign for the keys.

Five of seven SUVs tested well in passenger-side crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by auto insurers. Two of the other models tested didn’t fare so well, the group said in a press release this week.

How does your favorite SUV fare in passenger-side crash ratings?

The vehicles were judged on how well they withstood impacts, called “passenger-side small overlap front crashes.” In the tests, the vehicles traveled at 40 mph and crashed into a barrier. The SUVs were positioned so that a quarter of its front end overlapped the barrier.

The tests were developed in 2017 to encourage automakers to institute the same safeguards for front-seat passengers as there are for drivers.

Here are the SUVs that earned good ratings in the passenger-side small overlap front tests:

  • BMW X1
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • GMC Terrain
  • Jeep Compass
  • Mitsubishi Outlander

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The SUV that earned a marginal rating in the passenger-side test is the:

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

According to the institute, the Outlander Sport model mostly held up under crash duress but allowed too much “intrusion,” meaning the vehicle’s structure was compromised to the point that it began to collapse into the cabin, which is an unsafe threshold.

The vehicle that received a poor rating is the passenger-side test is the:


Ford Escape

Like the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the Ford Escape’s intrusion —5 inches on the driver’s side and double that amount on the passenger’s upper door — went too far into the occupant compartment, the institute said.

Because Ford bolstered structural support on the Escape’s driver’s side (but not on the passenger’s) in 2017, the vehicle earned an acceptable rating in the driver-side small overlap front test.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” Becky Mueller, the institute’s senior research engineer. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.”

A related airbag test also proved problematic for the two SUVs: Neither of the side curtain airbags in the vehicles deployed, the institute said.

“That’s not something we expect to see after so many years of crash testing,” Mueller was quoted as saying. “Side curtain airbags should deploy in crashes like this.”

Here the complete ratings for the SUVs:

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