Popular Midsize SUVs Disappoint in New IIHS Passenger-Side Crash Test

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted its passenger-side small overlap front crash test on several midsize SUVs.

Introduced last year, the passenger-side small overlap front crash test has just the front corner of a vehicle striking another vehicle or object, such as a tree or utility pole. IIHS has been rating vehicles in driver-side small overlap crashes since 2012, resulting in significant improvements by automakers. But passengers aren’t always afforded equal protection, IIHS found, so it began testing the passenger side last year.

The latest batch of vehicles include the 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, 2018 GMC Acadia, 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder, 2018 Honda Pilot, 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and 2018 Ford Explorer. The results weren’t pretty for some vehicles, with IIHS discovering a wide range of issues, from structural collapse to airbag nondeployment.

One of the most popular models in the segment, the 2018 Ford Explorer, delivered disappointing results. According to IIHS, the 2018 Ford Explorer rates poor because its structure was seriously compromised, with intrusion reaching 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard. The door sill was also pushed in six inches towards the crash dummy, and measures taken from the dummy showed a high likelihood of injuries to the right hip in a real-world crash of the same severity. There were also signs of possible left lower leg injuries.

The Explorer also had poor structural performance in the driver-side test and earns an overall rating of marginal for driver-side small overlap protection. The American automaker is redesigning the Ford Explorer and has said the new model will improve small overlap protection on both sides.

SEE ALSO: IIHS Evaluates Seven Small SUVs in New Crash Test

Another vehicle that struggled was the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with maximum intrusion of 10 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. But what was more alarming was that the passenger dummy’s head hit the dash hard through the front airbag, and since the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy, the door opened. During rebound, the dummy actually moved outside the vehicle since the door was opened. Measures taken from the dummy found right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity, and a head injury would be possible.

The passenger dummy in the Honda Pilot also indicated possible head injuries, with the head sliding off the front airbag and moving just far enough to hit the dashboard hard. The Pilot however, does have good structural performance, helping it earn an overall rating of acceptable, along with the Toyota Highlander and the Nissan Pathfinder.

Three of the models tested earned a good rating: GMC Acadia, Kia Sorento, and Volkswagen Atlas. Although the Acadia had maximum intrusion of just two inches, the passenger dummy’s head did slide off the right side of the front airbag, leaving it vulnerable to contact with the forward structure.

Kia updated the Sorento for the 2019 model year to improve protection in the passenger-side small overlap front crash. The Korean automaker reinforced the passenger-side toepan and door sill, resulting in a structure that was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of four inches on the right side of the toepan. As a result, the 2019 Kia Sorento is the only one to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award out of the newly-rated SUVs.

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Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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2 of 3 comments
  • Davin Peterson Davin Peterson on Jun 12, 2018

    Fiat-Chrysler used the excuse that it means or exceeds federal safety standards. But that doesn't mean it's safe. The NHTSA crash tests are not as stringent as IIHS. Notice that the Japanese automakers have better designs than the American automakers

  • Andyoo Andyoo on Nov 03, 2018

    build ford tough...lol...and they are stop making cars...