The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently put several popular midsize SUVs through its series of passenger-side overlap tests and the results are a bit scary for a few of them. The worst performers were the 2018 Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, which both received a “poor” rating, the lowest score possible.
A small overlap crash occurs when just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. IIHS began rating vehicles in driver-side small overlap crashes in 2012, but last year the tests expanded to the passenger side.
“Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies,” says IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby. “In those SUVs, a front-seat passenger would be at risk of injuries to the head, hip or leg in a right-side small overlap front crash.”
The Ford Explorer rates poor because its structure was compromised. Intrusion reached 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard. The door sill was pushed in 6 inches toward the dummy. Measures taken from the dummy showed a high likelihood of injuries to the right hip in a real-world crash of the same severity, as well as a possibility of left lower leg injuries.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee had maximum intrusion of 10 inches at the lower door hinge pillar, but the worst part was what happened to the passenger dummy’s head. It hit the dashboard hard through the front airbag and then, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, it moved outside the vehicle during rebound. Measures from the dummy indicated that right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity and a head injury would be possible.
Six of the eight midsize SUVs tested received a good or acceptable rating: 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 VW Atlas, 2018 GMC Acadia, 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Honda Pilot, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder.