IIHS Says Most Small SUVs Have Lousy Headlights

If you thought the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had a problem with headlights on midsize sedans, wait until you see the results of new tests on small SUVs. Let’s just say they’re even less impressed with them. (By the way, the IIHS plans to test pickups next.)

IIHS researchers recently tested headlight performance on 21 small SUVs. Not one of them earned a good rating and only four of them came out with an acceptable rating. That means two-thirds of them received a poor rating.

IIHS engineers evaluate headlights on the Vehicle Research Center’s track after dark. A special device is used to measure how far the light is projected as the vehicle is driven on five approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured in each scenario. A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can’t earn a rating higher than marginal.
Headlight performance in today’s vehicles varies widely. The IIHS says that’s because government standards are based on lab tests and not real-world driving situations.

The other thing IIHS researchers point out is that price doesn’t matter. A more expensive car doesn’t mean you get better headlights. It’s a point they made when testing midsize cars earlier this year as well. You can see those results here.

What’s also interesting is that the IIHS says modern lighting, like high-intensity discharge (HID) and LED lamps, along with curve-adaptive systems, also are no guarantee of good performance.

“Manufacturers aren’t paying enough attention to the actual on-road performance of this basic equipment,” says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow. “We’re optimistic that improvements will come quickly now that we’ve given automakers something to strive for.”

For 2017, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights in order to qualify for the Institute’s highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+.
Related Video: IIHS Small SUV Headlight Ratings
Photo Credit: IIHS
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