Midsize SUVs Disappoint in Small Overlap Front Crash Test

Midsize SUVs Disappoint in Small Overlap Front Crash Test
Image: IIHS
April 08, 2014

The Chevrolet Equinox and its twin, the GMC Terrain, are the only midsize SUVs out of nine evaluated to earn a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, which continues to challenge manufacturers more than a year and a half after its introduction.

The Equinox and the Terrain qualify for the Institute's highest award for 2014, TOP SAFETY PICK+. The Toyota Highlander, a midsize SUV whose acceptable small overlap rating was announced in December, also qualifies. The award is given to vehicles with a good or acceptable small overlap rating, good ratings in four other occupant protection tests, and a rating of basic or higher for front crash prevention.

Three midsize SUVs in the test group received a 'poor' rating for small overlap protection, including the Kia Sorento, the Mazda CX-9 and the Honda Pilot. Three others received a 'marginal' rating, including the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner. The Highlander earned an 'acceptable' rating.

"SUVs have gotten much safer over the past few generations, but some are better than others at providing comprehensive front crash protection," says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward. The Equinox and Terrain score well in all components of the small overlap test — structure, restraints and kinematics, and injury measures for four body regions."

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The Honda Pilot was the worst performer in this group. The driver's space was seriously compromised by intruding structure. In the worst instance, the parking brake pedal moved inward 16½ inches. The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved 5½ inches to the right. Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left knee and both lower legs would be possible.

A good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, along with good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, is now a requirement for IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK designation. The Equinox, Terrain and Highlander all earned the higher accolade of TOP SAFETY PICK+ because each is available with an optional front crash prevention system.