Several Midsize SUVs Fail IIHS Crash Test

By Jennifer Geiger  on April 7, 2014

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The 2014 Honda Pilot didn't do very well in Cars.com's $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge, and it fared even worse in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's latest crash test. The Pilot is one of several SUVs that scored poorly in the IIHS's challenging small front overlap test.

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The agency recently performed the test, meant to simulate a 40-mph crash of a vehicle's front corner into another vehicle, a tree or a pole, on nine midsize SUVs; six scored marginal or poor. Only the 2014 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain took home good ratings, earning them Top Safety Pick Plus status.

The GM twins join the redesigned-for-2014 Toyota Highlander, which was tested last year and also deemed a Top Safety Pick Plus. To qualify for the agency's highest award, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating, good ratings in four other occupant protection tests and a rating of basic or higher for front crash prevention.

In the Equinox and Terrain tests, IIHS said the dummy driver's space was well maintained and its frontal air bag did a good job of cushioning its head. The agency credits model-year 2014 structural and door pillar modifications for the SUVs' good score.

"SUVs have gotten much safer over the past few generations, but some are better than others at providing comprehensive front crash protection," David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, said in a statement.

On the bottom of the list, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer scored marginal and the Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot all got poor scores. In the case of the CX-9, the A-pillar got pushed in by about 17 inches, the side airbag didn’t deploy and the dummy's head struck the door frame after sliding off the front airbag.

IIHS said the driver's space was even more compromised during the Honda Pilot's crash test with the parking brake pedal caving inward more than 16 inches, the dummy’s head slipping off the airbag and the steering column shifting over 5 inches. However, several of Honda's other vehicles, including the 2013 Pilot, are Top Safety Picks, and the automaker said it's committed to improving the Pilot's small front overlap crash score.

"Every new generation of the Honda Pilot has helped lead the light truck segment with a wide range of standard safety and driver assistive technologies and we are committed that it will continue to do so in the future," the automaker said in a statement.

Midsize SUVs aren't the only group struggling with this test. The small front overlap test has also proven difficult for many automakers and vehicle classes, including compact crossovers and compact sedans.

"The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. In a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle's front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy," IIHS said in a statement.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer


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