Small SUVs Stumble in Insurance Institute’s Newest Crash Test

Only two of 13 small, new-model SUVs tested in a new frontal crash test got top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Aerial view of IIHS Vehicle Research Center

The IIHS’s Vehicle Research Center in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of the IIHS)

The 2014 Subaru Forester netted “good” ratings in each of the Institute’s five crash tests, including its newest small overlap test that recreates a crash in which the side of a vehicle’s front-end strikes an object. It was the only model of the 13 to get the highest “good” rating.

The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was rated “good” in all crashes except for the small-overlap test, where it attained the second-highest “acceptable” rating. All other models received “marginal” or “poor” ratings for the small-overlap test.

Nine of the 13 small SUV models still earned the Top Safety Pick distinction, a tier below the highest Top Safety Pick+ rating, for obtaining the highest “good” rating in the moderate-overlap, side, rollover and rear crash tests, according to the Institute. Those models are the:
— BMW X1
— Buick Encore
— Ford Escape
— Honda CR-V
— Hyundai Tucson
— Kia Sportage
— Mazda CX-5
— Volkswagen Tiguan
— 2014 Patriot

While IIHS crash tests don’t directly impact auto insurance premiums, which are determined by insurers with their own claims data, good crash ratings from the Institute will likely mean less costly medical payments and personal injury protection claims. Long-term claims trends could then impact how an insurance company views a certain car model, so a vehicle that shines in IIHS crash tests could mean cheaper insurance premiums in a comparison of car insurance quotes with a vehicle that hasn’t achieved similarly high ratings.

New Crash Test Introduced Last Year

Last year, the IIHS saw similar results when testing its first batch of car models with the newest frontal crash test. In those tests, only two of the 11 luxury midsize 2012 models netting the Institute’s Top Safety Pick, its highest safety rating at the time.

Later that year, the IIHS created a new class of safety ratings, Top Safety Pick+, to denote a car model’s good performance in all crash tests, including the small-overlap test.

The majority of vehicles perform well in the IIHS’ moderate-overlap crashes, which tests a wider part of a car model’s front end than the small-overlap crash.

The Institute said that the small-overlap test was introduced to address small-overlap crashes that make up almost a quarter of all frontal crashes that result in serious injury or death to occupants in front seats.

While small SUVs are having “apparent” difficulty with performing well in the newest crash test, automakers like Subaru are continually redesigning their models to adapt, according to the Institute; the 2014 Forester is the latest example.

“This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes,” Joe Nolan, vice president for vehicle research at IIHS, said in a statement.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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