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10 Mid-Size SUVs Ace New IIHS Crash Test, Popular Models Fall Short

IIHS Hyundai Palisade Crash Test jpg 2022 Hyundai Palisade | IIHS image

Mid-size SUVs fared better than their compact counterparts in an updated crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. In the small SUV test conducted in the fall, only one vehicle out of 20 — the Mazda CX-5 — earned a good rating. In comparison, over half of the mid-size SUVs tested earned the agency’s highest designation. The results can serve as a predictor of Top Safety Pick eligibility for 2023.

Related: Here’s Every Car That Earned an IIHS Top Safety Award for 2022

Eight models fell short and six failed to earn a passing grade from the 18 SUVs evaluated using a new side impact test that simulates higher-speed crashes that cause fatalities. In lieu of the previous test that used a 3,300-pound barrier traveling at 31 mph, the updated test employs a 4,200-pound barrier that strikes the test vehicle at 37 mph. According to IIHS, the added weight better corresponds to a typical mid-size SUV, and a new honeycomb shape used for the striking surface of the barrier better replicates the front of an SUV or pickup truck.

Although the testing procedure has changed, the criteria to earn a good rating hasn’t: The vehicle’s occupant compartment must hold its shape, dummy evaluations must not show a high risk of severe injuries, and side airbags and seat belts should prevent hard contact with the interior. The structure and safety cage of the vehicle is also evaluated along with driver and rear-seat occupant injury measures that include head and neck, torso, pelvis and head protection.

The Standouts

IIHS Volkswagen ID 4  scaled jpg 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 | IIHS image

Although 10 mid-size SUVs scored a good rating (categories include good, acceptable or marginal) only the 2021-22 Volkswagen ID.4 and Mazda CX-9 got perfect scores with good ratings across all driver and rear occupant injury evaluations. The ID.4 was the only all-electric model tested and the Mazda CX-9 joins its smaller sibling, the 2022 CX-5, in acing the new side impact test.

The Underperformers

IIHS Jeep Wrangler Crash Test scaled jpg 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited | IIHS image

Some notable models stood out for less impressive reasons, earning marginal overall ratings. The 2021-22 four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited failed to earn top marks because it lacks rear side airbags; this omission, which we’ve previously noted, resulted in a poor rating for passenger head protection. According to IIHS’ evaluation of the Wrangler, the rear dummy’s head hit the vertical support of the vehicle’s roof and the window frame in testing.

Perhaps even more concerning are a handful of popular family vehicles that are more likely to carry rear-seat occupants yet only earn marginal ratings. The related 2022 Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride earned poor scores in the driver’s pelvis category, while the 2021-22 Nissan Murano got a poor rating in structure and safety cage. The 2022 Honda Pilot and its two-row Passport variant earned several marginal ratings across the evaluation criteria.

Overall Rankings

ford explorer st and st line 2022 oem 01 exterior group shot jpg 2022 Ford Explorer | Manufacturer image

In total, 10 mid-size SUVs got good ratings, two received acceptable marks and six were marginal. Although these results don’t change a specific model’s Top Safety Pick designation for 2022, they will be implemented for 2023. A Top Safety Pick designation will require a good or acceptable rating for the new test, and a good rating will be required for a Top Safety Pick Plus designation.


  • 2022 Ford Explorer
  • 2022 Infiniti QX60
  • 2022 Lincoln Aviator
  • 2021-22 Mazda CX-9
  • 2022 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2022 Subaru Ascent
  • 2022 Toyota Highlander
  • 2021-22 Volkswagen Atlas
  • 2021-22 VW Atlas Cross Sport
  • 2022 VW ID.4


  • 2022 Buick Enclave
  • 2022 Chevrolet Traverse


  • 2022 Honda Passport
  • 2022 Honda Pilot
  • 2022 Hyundai Palisade
  • 2021-22 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
  • 2022 Kia Telluride
  • 2021-22 Nissan Murano

The Takeaways

volkswagen id4 awd pro s 2022 01 dynamic exterior front angle red suv scaled jpg 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 | photo by Christian Lantry

The side impact crash test is just one of many tests performed by IIHS, but it plays a key role in a vehicle’s overall safety: A 2011 study looked at 10 years of crash-test data and found that a driver of a vehicle with a good side rating is 70% less likely to die in a left-side crash compared to a driver of a poor-rated vehicle. As of 2019, side impact collisions still accounted for 23% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

IIHS surmises that mid-size SUVs outperformed compact vehicles in the new test due to their higher ride height. While pelvis injuries were prevalent in both categories, small SUVs were at a significant disadvantage in preventing chest and abdomen injuries — likely a result of where the barrier strikes in relation to the SUV’s ride height. According to Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the agency’s Vehicle Research Center, “a higher-riding vehicle may benefit from the barrier striking lower on its side.”

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Former News Editor Jane Ulitskaya joined the team in 2021, and her areas of focus included researching and reporting on vehicle pricing, inventory and auto finance trends. Email Jane Ulitskaya

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