The 2018 Ford Escape got the lowest score of poor for its protection of a front-seat occupant in the new small overlap front crash test on the passenger side. Five other small SUVs got the top score of good and one was rated marginal among the seven crashed in the latest round of testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The SUVs providing good protection for the person riding "shotgun" were the 2018 BMW X1, the redesigned Chevrolet Equinox and sibling GMC Terrain, the new Jeep Compass and the Mitsubishi Outlander. Mitsubishi's Outlander Sport did not fare as well, getting the marginal score. You can see a breakdown of scores in the test here. The seven bring to 16 the number of small SUVs to undergo the passenger-side test. You can see scores for all small SUVs here.
The Escape allowed the occupant space to be severely compromised, including with the passenger-side door sill pushed into the compartment, which IIHS said made right hip injuries likely. Not only did the Escape allow unacceptable intrusion into the passenger space, the side curtain airbag also failed to deploy, allowing the passenger's head to slide off the front airbag.
IIHS noted that starting with the 2017 Escape, Ford beefed up the structure on the driver's side to improve occupant protection in a small overlap front crash but didn't make the same changes to the passenger side. The Escape earned an acceptable rating, one below good, in the driver-side small overlap test.
"Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side," said Becky Mueller, IIHS senior research engineer, in a statement. "Manufacturers shouldn't shortchange protection for front-seat passengers."
As with the Escape, the side curtain airbag failed in the Outlander Sport, and IIHS said both incidents came as a surprise. With such a failure, the passenger would be vulnerable to contact with the side structure and outside objects in a small overlap front crash.
"That's not something we expect to see after so many years of crash-testing," Mueller said. "Side curtain airbags should deploy in crashes like this."
Both small overlap tests involve crashing a vehicle crash into a barrier at 40 mph with just 25 percent of the front end overlapping the barrier, simulating a crash in which the front corner of a vehicle takes the impact. The test was made part of the battery required for the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award in 2017.
Despite good crash scores, none of the latest vehicles earned that top award, primarily because in separate testing, their headlights did not get the required good rating to qualify for the Top Safety Pick Plus designation. The Escape, however, also got the lowest score among the seven newly tested SUVs for its headlights.
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