The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) took a close look recently at mid-sized SUVs. What they found may discourage you. The 2014 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain are the only midsize SUVs out of nine evaluated to earn a "good" rating in the small overlap front crash test.
The 2014 Honda Pilot was "the worst performer in this group," said the IIHS. The 2014 Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 also earned a "poor" rating.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander earned an "acceptable" rating.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer earned a "marginal" rating. What happened?
The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.
"SUVs have gotten much safer over the past few generations, but some are better than others at providing comprehensive front crash protection," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward. The Equinox and Terrain score well in all components of the small overlap test — structure, restraints and kinematics, and injury measure for four body regions."
As a result of this latest test, the Equinox and Terrain qualify for the Institute's highest 2014 Top Safety Pick+ award. The Highlander also qualifies.
In the case of the Honda Pilot, the IIHS said: "The driver's space was seriously compromised by intruding structure."
"In the worst instance, the parking brake pedal moved inward 16.5 inches," the IIHS said. "The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved 5.5 inches to the right.
"Measure taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left knee and both lower legs would be possible."
During testing, the Mazda CX-9 "saw its hinge pillar pushed in 17 inches, bringing the left front wheel even with the dummy's knee."
"The side airbag didn't deploy, and the door frame ended up so far inside the occupant compartment that the dummy's head struck it after sliding off the frontal airbag," the IIHS said.
It added: "In the Ford Explorer, the door hinge pillar was nearly severed from the door sill."
"Only the Equinox/Terrain and the Toyota 4Runner tests showed good engagement with the frontal airbag," the IIHS said.
Edmunds.com reports that the folks at American Honda Motor Co. didn't take the bad news without defending itself. They issued a a statement about the Pilot's results.
"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 company said. "The safety of our customers is of great importance to Honda, and with each successive new model we will continue to enhance the safety of our customers and others on the road."