The Ford Explorer rated poor because the crossover’s structure collapsed during a passenger-side front small overlap crash test. Photo credit: IIHS
Two of the top-selling midsize and large SUV/crossovers — the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2018 Ford Explorer — rated poor in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest passenger-side small overlap front crash tests, while the 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas and 2018 GMC Acadia received good ratings.
The 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder and 2018 Honda Pilot received acceptable ratings.
A small overlap crash occurs when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or fixed object, such as a tree or utility pole. The IIHS passenger-side small overlap test is conducted at 40 mph with 25 percent overlap between the front end of the vehicle and a barrier.
In 2016, there were 1,606 U.S. fatalities from right-front passengers in frontal crashes, and 8,400 driver fatalities in frontal crashes, IIHS says.
In the group’s 2009 study of 116 crashes with a fatal or serious injury in a frontal crash, 19 percent were near-side small overlap and 5 percent were far-side small overlap. IIHS estimates there are roughly 725 annual U.S. fatalities in passenger-side small overlap crashes and 1,675 in driver-side small overlap crashes.
The group began rating vehicles for driver-side small overlap crash protection in 2012 and automakers have since made engineering changes to better protect drivers in such crashes. But passengers aren’t always equally protected, IIHS says, prompting the group to begin rating vehicles with the passenger-side test in 2017.
“These are vehicles that we hadn’t rated on the passenger side before, and as we add more tests to our battery of evaluations, we try to keep up current ratings for the vehicles that people are the most interested in buying,” IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said.
The Explorer is rated poor because the structure collapsed during the test. The Explorer’s passenger-side small overlap crash test indicated right hip and left lower leg injuries could occur in a crash. The Grand Cherokee’s passenger-side small overlap crash test indicated right leg injuries and a possible head injury could occur in a crash.
The Explorer has also received poor structural performance and an overall marginal rating for driver-side small overlap protection in the driver-side test.
The Acadia received one acceptable rating, in passenger restraints and kinematics, with a maximum intrusion of just two inches on the right side of the toepan but a passenger dummy’s head slid off the right side of the front airbag. The vehicle otherwise rated good in each rating.
The Highlander, Pathfinder and Pilot rated good in chest, hip and thigh passenger injury measures. The Highlander and Pathfinder rated marginal in structure, and the Pilot rated marginal in passenger restraints and kinematics. The test of the Pilot indicated the possibility of head injuries, as the test dummy slid off the front airbag and moved far enough forward to hit the dashboard.
The Sorento is the only vehicle tested to earn the institute’s Top Safety Pick+ award. The vehicle was modified for the 2019 model year to improve protection in a passenger-side small overlap crash.
“We were seeing in some cases, automakers weren’t making changes in the passenger side that would result in the same protections for right front passengers as they had for the driver’s side,” Zuby said. “When we launch a new test like we did in 2012, it’s not surprising for us to see automakers change designs only on the driver’s side.”
“Our expectation is that over time, they eventually get to the passenger side,” Zuby said. “That’s what we weren’t seeing happening.”