The Safest SUV
(And Which Ones To Avoid)
by Bill Flitter
Dad, Coffee Lover, Coach, First Car: '79 Camaro
As a dad, my primary job is to keep the kids safe. A few skinned knees and bloody elbows are to be expected. Especially when the kids are learning to ride a bike or going full speed downhill on a skateboard.
But a car crash or even a fender bender is another story entirely. It’s especially scary when carrying precious cargo in the backseat. Because safety is so incredibly important, I did some research on the safest SUV on the market today.
Put Through The Test – How to Determine The Safest SUV
A great source of information for safety ratings on cars is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS/HLDI).
IIHS/HLDI has two ratings for vehicles.
- TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests — as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
- small overlap front
- moderate overlap front
- roof strength
- head restraints
- TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in
- the five crashworthiness tests
- an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention
- an acceptable or good headlight rating
I had no idea what small “overlap front” and “moderate overlap front means.” Not to mention, how a company determines the safety rating.
Upon Googling it I had one of those moments of “Well, that makes sense.”
I simplified the explanation below but, if you want to learn more, I suggest reading IIHS/HLDI safety rating details.
Small & Medium Overlap Front
|Moderate overlap frontal test||Small overlap frontal test|
|MPH||A vehicle travels at 40 mph toward a barrier||A vehicle travels at 40 mph toward a barrier|
|Barrier Size||2 foot tall||5 foot tall|
|Crash Test Dummy||average-size man is positioned in the driver seat||average-size man is positioned in the driver seat|
|Vehicle Surface Area Tested||40% of total width||25% of total width|
|Side impact test|
|MPH||A vehicle travels at 31 mph toward a barrier|
|Barrier Size||a 3,300-pound SUV-like barrier hits the driver side|
|Crash Test Dummy||Two dummies representing small women or 12-year-old children|
The IIHS/HLDI explains how they conduct the test.
The strength of the roof is determined by pushing a metal plate against one side of it at a slow but constant speed. The force applied relative to the vehicle’s weight is known as the strength-to-weight ratio. This ratio varies as the test progresses. The peak strength-to-weight ratio recorded at any time before the roof is crushed 5 inches is the key measurement of roof strength.
|Side impact test|
|MPH||A vehicle is hit from behind at 20 mph|
|Barrier Size||Steel flatbed sled that runs on fixed rails.|
|Crash Test Dummy||Dummy with a realistic spine and neck.|
The reach of a vehicle’s headlight is measured as the vehicle travels straight and on curves.
|Side impact test|
|Gradual left curve||800-foot radius|
|Gradual right curve||800-foot radius|
|Sharp left curve||500-foot radius|
|Sharp right curve||500-foot radius|
Both low beams and high beams are measured on five approaches, shown in the image below:
Safest Suv for 2017
These 3 small SUVs scored the highest in all categories, including crashworthiness, crash avoidance and child seat anchors.
The Honda CR-V has won an impressive list of awards and is considered “one of the safest and most reliable SUVs on the market.” The CR-V won U.S. News’ 2017 Best Compact SUV for the Money award and their 2017 Best Compact SUV for Families award. CR-V also won the “Top Safety Pick+” designation from the IIHS and a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. Standard safety features include a rearview camera, though higher trims offer forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and Honda’s Driver Attention Monitor, which sends an alert if the car believes the driver is drowsy.”
I’ve never paid much attention to Mazda CX-3 before but at a starting price of under $20,000 (several thousands of dollars cheaper than the CR-V) and by being a finalist for the 2017 Best Subcompact SUV for the Money award, it might be time to start. However, to get the most safety features available, you’ll need one of their more top-tier trims; the only standard safety feature on the CX-3 is the rearview camera.
The two CX-3 trims that received the Safest SUV award include:
The SUVs With The Lowest Safety Ratings for 2017
After learning of the safest SUV, I bet you are curious to learn which cars have the lowest safety rating:
- Buick Encore
- Chevrolet Trax
- Audi Q3
- Ford Escape
- Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
- Honda HR-V
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- Jeep Patriot
- Jeep Renegade
- Jeep Wrangler
All of these models scored low in several categories with just basic front end collision, and in some cases, the front end collision rating wasn’t even available.
Over to You
What do you like about the Safest SUV for 2017? Let us know which safety features you like in these small SUVs.