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.

As a dad, my primary job is to keep the kids safe. Driving the Safest SUV is one way I can do that.

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.
    1. small overlap front
    2. moderate overlap front
    3. side
    4. roof strength
    5. head restraints
  • TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in
    1. the five crashworthiness tests
    2. an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention
    3. 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
An Australian study found that white vehicles are about 10% less likely to be in a crash during daylight hours compared to other colors.
to be considered the safest suv a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests — as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Moderate overlap front test

to be considered the safest suv 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 test

Side Impact

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
A driver of a vehicle rated good is 70% less likely to die in side crash, compared with a vehicle rated poor.
when looking for the safest suv engineers look at three factors to determine side ratings: driver and passenger injury measures, head protection and structural performance.

Side impact test

Roof Strength

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.

Rollover crashes account for approximately 30% of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities.

Roof strength test

Head Restraints

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.
Injury rates were 15% lower for vehicles with seats/head restraints rated good compared with vehicles with seats/head restraints rated poor.
To test the head restraints on the safest suv a dynamic testing of seats/head restraints requires a dummy with a realistic spine and neck.

Head restraint test

Headlight Evalution

The reach of a vehicle’s headlight is measured as the vehicle travels straight and on curves.

Side impact test
Straightaway
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:

About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads. Headlights have an obvious role to play in preventing nighttime crashes, but not all headlights perform their job equally.
To determine the safest suv, testing of the headlist plays an important role

Both low beams and high beams are measured on five approaches

Safest Suv for 2017

These 3 small SUVs scored the highest in all categories, including crashworthiness, crash avoidance and child seat anchors.

Toyota Rav4

safest suv with the best suv deals right now

The three Rav4 trims that received the Safest SUV award include:

Honda CRV

There are thousands of different cars to choose from and SUVs are a popular choice. Which one of them is the best SUV for the money, though? CRV voted safest suv for 2017 and one of the most fuel efficient suv

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.”

The 2017 Honda CR-V is impressive with it’s list of awards and is considered “one the safest suv and most reliable SUV on the market.”

Mazda CX-3

2017 Mazda CX-3 Safest SUV

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.