The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is releasing crash test results for 7 midsize SUVs and it’s a mixed bag of results. The results are for the tough small overlap front test which simulates a collision where just the front corner of a vehicle hits another vehicle. This could happen if a vehicle drifts over the center line of a highway, or when a vehicle veers off the road and hits a tree or telephone pole on the driver side.
The best performer of the bunch is the redesigned 2015 Nissan Murano. It earned a good rating, plus it’s an overall Top Safety Pick+ thanks to an available automatic braking system that earns a superior rating in track tests. IHHS researchers say the autobrake nearly avoided a collision in the 12 mph IIHS track test and reduced the vehicle’s speed by 11 mph in the 25 mph test.
At the bottom end of the list, the Dodge Journey. It performed the worst in this round of small overlap testing and the IHHS calls it a “classic example of poor small overlap protection.” The occupant compartment failed to hold up, with intrusion measuring as much as 9 inches at the instrument panel and the parking brake pedal, which tore through the dummy’s left lower leg. So not good for the dummy to say the least.
An IIHS chart grades each of the 7 midsize SUVs — the Nissan Murano, Ford Flex, Jeep Wrangler Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Dodge Journey — below.
IHHS says this test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the moderate overlap test. That’s because, 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. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.
Since IIHS began small overlap testing in 2012, automakers have responded to the challenge in two ways. One is by taking the test into account when models are redesigned. The other is by making smaller modifications to beef up the front structure and improve airbags even before a model gets a full overhaul.
“This test presented a major challenge for manufacturers when it was introduced three years ago, and many have adapted quickly,” says IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby. “Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep have had some successes with redesigned models, but they haven’t done much in the way of interim improvements. As a result, they still have many models that rate poor or marginal.”