May 16, 2013

Only 2 of 13 small SUVs do well in crash tests

Subaru's 2014 Forester is the only vehicle to get a 'good' rating.

Tom Krisher / The Associated Press

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The 2014 Subaru Forester, shown here, and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport each received the "Top Safety Pick Plus" award because they performed well in multiple tests including the small offset crash.

Subaru photo

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This undated handout photo provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows a side crash of a 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander. A report released Thursday, May 16, 2013, shows only two of 13 small SUVs are getting passing grades in front-end crash tests done by an insurance industry group. (Photo/IIHS)

Honda said in a statement that the CR-V earned a Top Safety Pick award, which was the best when it was introduced in 2011. The company would not comment when asked if it's reworking the CR-V so it does better in the small offset test.

Chrysler said the Wrangler and Patriot both meet or exceed all government safety requirements and perform well in real-world driving. Like most of the vehicles tested, both were designed before the IIHS added the small offset test.

The IIHS tests have a big impact on car-buying decisions because people are concerned about safety when they shift to smaller vehicles, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of auto sales forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. People buy the small SUVs, which also are called crossovers, or CUVs, because they perceive them to be safer than cars, he said.

The test results "could impact sales of these models, but more so with families and with parents purchasing these for their kids," he said in an email.

IIHS conducts its small offset test by crashing vehicles into a fixed 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph to simulate collisions with a utility pole or tree. The institute gives vehicles demerits when the structure intrudes into the passenger compartment, or if a crash dummy suffers injuries to head, neck, chest or other parts of the body. The group also measures how well seat belts and air bags protect people. "Good" is the top rating, followed by "acceptable," then "marginal" and "poor."

IIHS is a nonprofit research group funded by auto insurance companies.

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