The IIHS designated six “Top Safety Pick+” models so far in 2019.
Compact crossovers are the hottest selling cars around, replacing old-fashioned sedans thanks to their versatility. Each year, these cars are getting safer and safer, going by data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Today’s standards go well beyond simple crash testing, incorporating advanced accident prevention systems and even headlight design into a car’s overall rating. To earn a “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick+” designation, cars have to score well in several categories.
In the video above, we went through the IIHS list of “Small SUVs”. That is, compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4, Honda-CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5, among others. These are some of the most popular cars on the road, and we wanted to know which ones were the safest. According to the IIHS data, we run down ten total cars. Five scored well enough for Top Safety Pick+. The others, thanks to their older designs, came up short in this year’s crash tests.
Here are a full list of all Small SUVs counted in the segment:
The Safest Crossovers
The “safest crossovers” refers to the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, as well as individual scores. These five cars are soundly built, all achieving a “Good” rating in their crash test results. Crash test ratings consist of small and moderate overlap crash tests, side impacts, roof strength tests and the effectiveness of a car’s seats and head restraints. Beyond that, front crash prevention tech is rated as “Basic”, “Advanced”, or “Superior”, with qualifications on whether the systems are standard or optional equipment. Finally, in order for cars to hit the Top Safety Pick+ have to have a “Good” rating for its headlights, at least on some trims.
5) Hyundai Kona
Just edging out the Mazda CX-5, the Hyundai Kona is the fifth safest crossover, based on IIHS ratings. It achieved a Good score on all its crash tests, and has a Superior front crash prevention rating with optional equipment. Things like automatic emergency braking and radar cruise control help the ratings here.
The headlights received a “Good” rating on the Ultimate trim, earning the Kona a Top Safety Pick+ rating. However, the standard headlights on S and SE models don’t provide enough illumination, per IIHS tests. They scored a “Poor” rating.
4) Hyundai Tucson
Another Hyundai in the running, the Tucson takes the number four spot. Again, it beat out the Mazda on available front crash prevention tech with optional equipment. It also scored a “Good” on all its crash tests.
Again like the Kona, the headlights are what let the Tucson down. The Sport and Limited trims get a good rating, the lesser trims either manage an “Acceptable” or “Poor” rating.
3) Volvo XC40
It’s a stylish little crossover, but according to IIHS results it’s also a stout one. We’d expect that from a Volvo, and the XC40 does ace all its crash tests. It also scores a “Superior” rating on its front crash prevention tech with standard equipment. That makes it one of the safest small crossovers you can currently buy.
As ever, headlights are the caveat here. The standard headlights were dinged for excessive glare on Momentum, R-Design and Inscription models. However, if you get the Advanced package, the situation improves. Enough so that the Volvo XC40 as equipped with that package gets a “Good” rating on its headlights.
2) Toyota RAV4
It’s the best-selling current crossover, and Toyota clearly didn’t want to take chances on safety. With the redesigned RAV4, Toyota scored well on all crash tests. That includes the passenger-side small overlap test, which is an area where the last RAV4 struggled. It also scored well for its front crash prevention tech with standard equipment.
However, the headlights are a bit of a mixed bag. The RAV4 Hybrid Limited trim with the Adaptive Front Headlight System package scored a “Good” rating, albeit with some glare. Most other RAV4 ratings scored “Marginal”, one step above Poor. All of the gasoline RAV4 models fit in this category. Finally, the Hybrid XLE, XSE and Limited trims without the adaptive front lighting score a “Poor” rating.
1) Subaru Forester
Right now, the safest crossover you can buy according to IIHS results is the Subaru Forester. Subaru did just redesign this model for the 2019 model year, and it earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Again, all its crash tests fell in the “Good” category. Beyond that, models built after January 2019 have a “Superior” rating for its front crash prevention with standard equipment. That comes thanks to the inclusion of EyeSight on all Forester models.
Unlike the other models, the Forester actually has Good or Acceptable headlights on all its trims. Limited and Touring models built after January score a “Good” rating, with some glare. The base Forester, Premium and Sport trims manage an Acceptable rating. That also applies to Limited and Touring models built before January 2019.
Least safe crossovers in 2019
Now, for the other end of the ratings, “least safe” should be taken with a grain of salt. We’re not talking 1950s where cars fold like pancakes in a crash here. However, in the cases where cars score less than “Acceptable” may put passengers at higher risk for injury in certain types of crashes.
5) Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The hybrid Outlander scores slightly worse than its conventional cousin. Here, the PHEV version managed “Acceptable” on head restraints and seats. However, it does have “Superior” crash prevention with optional equipment. Headlights are either “Marginal” or “Poor” depending on which trim you buy.
4) BMW X1
The first German entry on this list, the BMW X1 mainly falls down on its headlights. Crash tests are all Good ratings. However, it only has “Advanced” crash protection rather than “Superior”, and it has either Marginal or Poor headlights.
3) Chevrolet Trax/Buick Encore
These two are essentially the same car, and earned identical ratings in crash tests. They both scored slightly worse on passenger-side small overlap, although these designs are a few years old by now. Like the BMW X1, their older designs emerged before the latest IIHS tests.
The Chevy Trax/Buick Encore only have “Basic” front crash prevention with optional equipment. The IIHS did not publish headlight ratings for the 2019 models.
2) Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
While the larger Outlander scored well, the same can’t be said for its smaller cousin. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is one of the least expensive entries in the segment, but it also did not score as well as the other. Models built before November 2018 scored “Acceptable” on drivers-side small overlap, and “Marginal” on the passenger side. Again, that does translate to a possible increased risk for injury in those types of crashes.
One up side for the Outlander Sport is that it did score a “Superior” rating on front crash prevention with optional equipment. Headlights either managed a “Marginal” or “Poor” rating depending on which trim you buy.
1) 2019 Ford Escape
Finally, the “unsafest” crossover is the current-generation Ford Escape. Again, there are a couple caveats to consider here. This is not the new 2020 Ford Escape. The current generation also spans back several years, before the passenger-side small overlap test emerged.
That said, the 2019 Ford Escape did score a “Poor” rating on the passenger-side small overlap. It was the only small SUV to earn a Poor rating on any crash test. Headlights were also “Acceptable”, “Marginal” or “Poor” depending on the trim. What’s more, the Escape is only available with “Basic” front crash prevention systems, as optional equipment.
What about the Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V?
These ratings are meant to inform consumers about how a vehicle might perform in a crash. The passenger-side tests were not performed with the Nissan Rogue, and the Honda CR-V scored well, apart from its Acceptable and Marginal headlight ratings.