Small SUVs Fare Poorly In New Crash Tests

2013 Ford Escape (credit: Ford Motor Company)

2013 Ford Escape (credit: Ford Motor Company)

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ARLINGTON, VA (WWJ) – How well will that small SUV protect you in a crash into a telephone poll or a tree? Some new crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) raise some serious questions.

The institute has been running vehicles through a small vehicle frontal overlap crash test, simulating what happens when about 25 percent of the vehicle’s front hits an object.

The latest test crashed 13 small SUVs.

“The bad news is 11 of the 13 did pretty poorly,” said Insurance Institute Research Vice President Joe Nolan. “We only have one good performer, and one acceptable performer.”

The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received the “Acceptable” rating. The “Good” rating went to another vehicle made by a smaller Japanese car company.

“The Subaru Forester aced this test,” said Nolan. “It’s the first vehicle to do so in this new crash configuration. In every evaluation of the structural performance, the way the dummy interacts with the restraint system, and all of the injury measures, it scored perfect scores.”

That gives the Subaru Forester the designation of “Top Safety Pick+.” There are now 20 vehicles with that “plus” by their designation. Vehicles that score well in other crash tests, but not the new one, get a designation of “Top Safety Pick.”

Many of the small SUVs in this test remain top safety picks including the new Buick Encore and the totally redone Honda CRV and Ford Escape.

But, Nolan says all could be made safer, if strengthened for this new collision. The Ford Escape, for example, showed some issues that could lead to serious injuries.

“We recorded over three thousand pounds of force going through the driver’s left leg into his hip,” said Nolan. “That’s a poor rating for the protection of the knee, thigh, hip complex. That’s a potentially very debilitating injury.”

The Escape has set new sales records for Ford, which says it believes the vehicle is safe.

“Ford takes seriously every industry development related to vehicle crash performance,” read a statement from the company. “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. The Escape was rated ‘Good’ for head/neck and chest dummy injury measures and ‘Acceptable’ for lower-leg/foot in this new test.”

The IIIHS says the purpose of the new test is to make vehicles safer. Institute officials say they believe carmakers will work to build vehicles that can pass the test. Nolan says that will save lives, and prevent injuries.

“Our analysis shows that about a quarter of all crashes that result in serious injury or fatality are what we call, small overlap frontal crashes.”

Review the full press release from the IIHS: Small SUV Crash Tests Results.