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Randy Appleton
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Only Two Small SUVs Earn IIHS Top Safety Rating

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Only two out of thirteen small SUV’s that were put through front-end crash tests received approval ratings from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). The only vehicle to get the top rating of "good" was the 2014 Subaru Forester. Mitsubishi's 2013 Outlander Sport received an "acceptable" rating. Each of the other eleven models, including three of the top-selling models, the Honda CR-V, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Escape were rated by the IIHS’s rated t as either "marginal" or "poor."

Small and mid-size SUV sales have dramatically increased over the past several years as consumers, who enjoy the conveniences SUVs have to offer, like extra passenger seating and more cargo space, seek out vehicles that will offer better gas mileage than the larger models.

Last year, the IIHS added the small overlap test to the series of evaluations it performs on vehicles. Most vehicles today are designed to do well in the government's full-width front crash test and in the Institute's moderate overlap front test, but success in those two categories is not a guarantee that a vehicle will do well in the small overlay test. In 2009, the agency conducted a study of vehicle that has received a good rating in frontal crash protection and found that small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.

The IIHS’s test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The dummy sitting in the driver’s seat for the test is a fiftieth percentile male Hybrid III dummy.

Two-thirds of small SUVs that were tested had poor ratings for structure, and about half of them were poor or marginal for restraints and kinematics, meaning the dummy's movements weren't well-controlled to prevent contact with hard surfaces.

The Jeep Patriot was among the worst for restraints and kinematics. The dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag as the steering wheel moved 8 inches up and nearly 6 inches to the right. The side curtain airbag didn't deploy, and the safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward.

The Subaru Forester had good ratings for structure, restraints and kinematics, and all four injury measures on the dummy. The airbags worked as intended, and the space around the dummy was well-maintained. The Forester and Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport were the only two to earn the agency’s Top Safety Pick+ rating.