By on April 4, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released new ratings for seven small utility vehicles. For the most part, the pint-sized crossovers performed amicably. However, none of the models were worthy of the group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award due to subpar headlamp performance, while a couple of models were found structurally deficient after being confronted with the dreaded small overlap crash test.

Ford’s Escape received an overall poor rating and came away from the test with the worst structural deformation within the group. Senior IIHS research engineer Becky Muller noted that Ford reinforced the diver’s side of the vehicle for the 2017 model year but negated extending that courtesy to passengers.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” she explained. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.”

At 40 mph, results showed the Escape running a high risk of serious hip injury to front passengers while providing “marginal” passenger restraint. Its side curtain airbags also failed to deploy properly, a problem that also cropped up on the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (RVR in Canada). While the Outlander Sport faired better overall, due to less structural deformation, its lackluster passenger restraint systems were deemed inferior to the Ford.

The rest of the lineup received “good” overall ratings, with the BMW X1 and Mitsubishi Outlander (which is larger than the Outlander Sport) averaging slightly better marks than the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, and Jeep Compass. The larger Outlander also qualified for the IIHS’ standard “Top Safety Pick” distinction.

None of this means we’d want to be seated in one of these vehicles in a head-on collision with a much larger SUV, but it’s good to know where they stand against each other. Still, the most useful tidbit of information comes from the prioritization of driver’s side safety to meet the old testing standard. We imagine Ford will bolster passenger side protection on the Escape for the next production cycle as a direct response to these results. The brand’s F-Series pickup also struggled with small overlap testing in 2015, but Ford ultimately revised the model to achieve superior structural crashworthiness within its segment. For 2018, the F-150 was only out-shined by the Honda Ridgeline in overall protection.

[Images: Institute for Highway Safety]

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33 Comments on “Latest IIHS Crash Tests: Throwing Small Crossovers at the Wall, Seeing What Sticks...”

  • avatar

    That Outlander is a nice color!

  • avatar

    Of course Ford reinforced protection for the driver, the driver is usually the one making the payments and scheduling service.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The tests confirm some automakers still game vehicle crash worthiness testing regimes. Called “death accounting”, they calculate if it is cheaper to ignore a problem and pay death and injury claims instead of correcting it.

  • avatar

    How long before they add the “errant driveshaft through the windshield” test?

  • avatar

    With the 2019 Rav4 on the horizon, that is the one we all want to see. That vehicle is so attractive it will run away with the sales. But, is it safe? I need to know before I put my wife in a 2019 Rav4.

  • avatar

    When I see pictures of SUV crashes, most of them are laying on their sides. I rarely see that in these tests. Maybe a better test is needed. Such as person panics, wrenches the steering wheel over as it collides with the object.

  • avatar

    Serious question: Why are there never any videos of rear impact crash tests? Do they not test for that, or is it less sexy to put up on YouTube?

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      I agree, but Euro Ncap seams to be more thorough with rear impact tests.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re out there, search FMVSS 301 on Youtube.

      I think the reason they’re more rare is it’s strictly a pass/fail test for fuel system leaks, and anything sold in the US has to pass, so there’s not much to talk about.

      I don’t understand why they put dummies in there and then don’t bother to take any readings, though. Seem like rear crash tests could use some updating.

  • avatar

    I would like to see how the Volvo xc 40 would hold up, has Volvo kept it safety rep intake? After seeing these test I will stick with something bigger thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      The XC40 is based on the Compact modular structure, where the larger Volvos are based on the larger SPA platform. Based on the XC40 small overlap videos I’ve seen on youtube, the XC40 still performs excellently and of course will ace all crash tests thrown at it. I did notice some deformation between the A and B pillars though, and the XC40 doesn’t exactly glide away effortlessly from the barrier as well as the other Volvos.

  • avatar

    We have a RHD Kuga/Escape which was built in Germany, where of course domestic cars are LHD. The bonnet/hood release is on the passenger side. This tells me that they’ve taken a LHD platform and modified it for a RHD market.

    Furthermore, the ANCAP safety rating is simply a copy/paste of the Euro NCAP safety test which performed the offset frontal collision test on the left side, where a German driver would sit.

    This makes me think that our car would do better in an offset frontal collision on what is our passenger side than the driver’s side. Would they have moved the reinforcement to the other side of the car when building it for RHD markets?

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately for you, probably not.

      You’d have thought someone like Ford would make a symmetrical chassis. But based on the Ford F150 which was previously caught out with subpar passenger side protection by IIHS (which is an insurance company consortium unknown in other jurisdictions), Ford values saving $1.29 per vehicle over front passenger safety on LHD vehicles. They grudgingly fixed the F150, but learnt no lessons of an ethical nature if this Escape/Kuga is an example.

      No doubt the Eurocrats who run NCAP testing under contract to private companies assumed like any reasonable person would, i.e. that the chassis of vehicles would be symmetrical. Well, Ford probably gamed that. They must be penny-pinchers of the first order. The current Mustang did OK on official US government NHTSA crash tests, but got two stars on NCAP. I’d surmise somebody forgot to check out what was needed to game NCAP. Oops. Maybe – if they found anyone to care.

      No striving for excellence to do as well as possible in crash tests. Nope, the cynical imperative to save a buck takes precedence over any attempt to rise above mediocrity and what they can get away with with, while hoping nobody notices.

      I have had zero reasons to buy a Ford for well over 40 years. As for the Euro Kaga, take heart that yours is probably far better assembled than the US one. Here, the hood and hatch panels and doors and I/P are still thrown together in haphazard fashion. Ford cares. Hah.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Nice to see the Compass did OK; I like that vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Safety is the one area in which I don’t find my personal Dart lacking.

      They seem to have gotten the safety thing right on the newer smaller lines– search YouTube and watch the lady smacking into a broken-down car at highway speeds in her Dart.

      She gets out and starts cursing the other driver– not even dazed. Modern safety is amazing, even on the worst cars.

  • avatar

    They rated the Compass reasonably well, lacking only the headlamp rating, it seems. Is that true also of the Renegade?

    • 0 avatar

      Renegade gets an “Acceptable” on driver-side small overlap, Good on moderate overlap, side, and roof strength, and Poor on headlights.

      Anecdotally, the online Renegade communities have observed numerous wrecks over the past 3 years, and the results have been very encouraging. Structural integrity and energy absorption have been very good. There have been some badly destroyed Renegades whose occupants walked away with few if any injuries.

  • avatar

    The photos above are excerpts from the IIHS’ new Corpse-Maker tests.

  • avatar

    So they designed a vehicle to pass crash testing only on the side that gets tested = costs and image are apparently more important than occupant safety. Good thing to keep in mind when considering purchasing any Ford product.

  • avatar

    I may be the only person on the planet that doesn’t give a crap about crash rating but quite honestly I don’t. I don’t wake up in the morning worried that I’m going to be maimed/killed in a car crash because the odds are that I won’t. I’m sure some here will vilify me for my opinion and hey, if that floats your boat then have at it. I ride a motorcycle and the odds of me getting hurt/maimed/killed while riding are far, far worse. The only thing I see here that would stop me from driving one of these vehicles is my seething hatred for CUV’s.

  • avatar

    There is no excuse for these poor headlight scores. For years the manufacturers griped that because of the constraints of DOT requirements they were unable to make advances in lighting systems. Now they have almost unlimited freedom in styling along with the options of HID, LED, krypton, halogen, and you’re lucky if you can see as far as you did with a 7” round tungsten from 1968.

    Apparently only the stylists got the benefit to go as wild as they wanted, except no one briefed them on the purpose the lights are supposed to serve.

  • avatar

    Ford reinforced only the driver’s side of the chassis because that was the side that got tested. VW programmed the diesel emission control to pass only while under government testing. Their behavior is why I laugh whenever I hear a conservative politician or voter complaining the government regulation is too intrusive.

    At least the conservative politician whines because he gets paid by the industry that is being inconvenienced by regulations.

    What does the conservative voter get? Does he really want to put his family in a car that was designed and engineered without the Big Brother’s supervision? Does he really want to feed his baby with food or medicine that wasn’t regulated by FDA? Does he know that he can now breath cleaner air and drink cleaner water while snickering about the smog in China, because of the work that EPA has been doing in the last 40 years?

    EPA, FDA, NHTSA, OSHA, and the such came into existence not because someone in the government was bored and decided to come up with something to torture the capitalists. They came into existence because the average voter and his family had died in flaming cars, from polluted water, from adulterated medicine, or at dangerous workplace.

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