Ten out of 18 mid-size SUVs scored good ratings and another two garnered acceptable ratings when undergoing a new side-impact evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
IIHS introduced the new, tougher side test to address higher-speed crashes that continue to cause fatalities. Research shows that side impacts accounted for 23% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2020.
Like the original side test, IIHS’s new test represents the type of crash that occurs when two crossing vehicles collide in an intersection. However, when IIHS announced the initial ratings of the new test in October 2021, just one out of 20 small SUVs earned a good rating, while half were rated marginal or poor.
The news regarding the mid-size SUVs indicates that automakers are taking the new, challenging test seriously.
The 10 vehicles that captured a good rating include the Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Aviator, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, and Volkswagen ID.4, the only electric vehicle in the group.
Both the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse garnered acceptable ratings. However, six SUVs only managed to earn a marginal rating. These include the Honda Passport, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Kia Telluride, and Nissan Murano.
To earn a good rating in either the old or new side test, the vehicle’s occupant compartment must hold its shape well during the crash. Measures collected from the dummies must not indicate a high risk of severe injuries. In addition, the side airbags and seat belts should prevent the dummies’ heads from making hard contact with the interior of the vehicle.
Except for the Wrangler, all the mid-size SUVs tested earn good scores for their driver and passenger airbags and head injury measures.
But pelvis injuries are another key concern. Unfortunately, only the CX-9, ID.4 and Wrangler earn good ratings for preventing injuries to the driver’s pelvis — the body region most frequently injured in real-world side crashes — although the Ascent, Aviator, Enclave, Explorer, and Traverse earn acceptable scores.
Half the vehicles that earn good ratings overall — the Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Highlander, Pathfinder, and QX60 — showed a moderate risk of severe injury to the driver’s pelvis. However, the driver’s vital body regions of head and torso were well protected in these models notes IIHS, as were the rear seat passenger’s head, torso, and pelvis. Their good and acceptable structures also suggest that their occupant compartments are robust.
The two acceptable-rated vehicles, the Enclave and the Traverse, fall short of good ratings due to marginal scores for occupant compartment structure.