A new, more rigorous side-impact crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows there's room for improvement in the safety of small SUVS, though cars, trucks and SUVs in general are safer than ever.
When the IIHS rolled out its first side crash test in 2003, only about one-in-five models earned a rating of good. Over the years, the auto industry made changes and almost all of today's vehicles get high marks.
But as larger trucks and SUVs have become increasingly popular, experts say, accidents are more dangerous.
"When we look at passenger vehicle deaths in the United States, about 23% of those are in side impact collisions," says IIHS President David Harkey.
He says that's why his group implemented a tougher side test. The larger barriers used in the new test move faster and create 82% more energy.
Researchers put 20 small SUVs through the test and only one, the 2021 Mazda CX-5, received a good rating. "It did a really good job at preventing injuries," Harkey said.
"We developed this new test because we suspected there was room for more progress, and these results confirm that," IIHS President David Harkey says. "The good rating for the CX-5 shows that robust protection in a more severe side crash is achievable."
The IIHS said nine vehicles earned a rating of acceptable: the 2021 Audi Q3, 2021 Buick Encore, 2021 Chevrolet Trax, 2021 Honda CR-V, 2021 Nissan Rogue, 2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Toyota RAV4, 2021 Toyota Venza, and 2021 Volvo XC40.
Eight vehicles got a marginal rating, according to IIHS: the 2021 Chevrolet Equinox, 2021 Ford Escape, 2021 GMC Terrain, 2021 Hyundai Tucson, 2021 Jeep Compass, 2021 Jeep Renegade, 2021 Kia Sportage, and 2021 Lincoln Corsair.
And the IIHS said two vehicles earned a rating of poor: the 2021 Honda HR-V and 2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
Asked if it's fair to ask automakers to redesign future vehicles to meet a new standard, Harkey said, "We think it's very fair. And we have no doubt that the automakers will meet this challenge -- they have done so every time we have rolled out a new test."
The IIHS stresses that most of today's new vehicles are very safe, but the organization is now pushing automakers to make them even safer.
The IIHS will eventually put all new cars and trucks to the new, more intense test.