But there is still room for improvement.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (better known as the IIHS) regularly updates evaluation criteria for its overall vehicle safety reviews, and one of its latest additions is the side-impact test. This new test was introduced to address higher-speed crashes that continue to lead to serious injury and death on US roads, and is more relevant than ever, considering America's shocking traffic death statistics.
The IIHS recently announced the 2022 midsize SUV side test results, and while there were marked improvements across the board, there were some surprising disappointments.
When the IIHS announced the introduction of the more stringent side-impact test in October last year, only one out of twenty SUVs tested managed to bag a good rating, while the rest were either rated marginal, or poor. Fast forward to May, 2022, and now ten out of 18 midsize have earned good ratings.
Those ten are the Lincoln Aviator, Subaru Ascent, Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, and the only electric vehicle tested, the Volkswagen ID.4. The Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave managed to eke out acceptable ratings, while the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Honda Passport, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Murano got a marginal rating.
These results are more relevant than ever, as America faces its worst road accident death rate in 16 years. According to the IIHS, drivers of cars that have a good side-impact rating are 70 percent less likely to die in a left-side crash than a driver in a car with a poor rating. That being said, side-impact crashes still accounted for 23 percent of vehicle occupant deaths in 2020. The IIHS' updated side-impact test now uses a strike force of 4,200 pounds instead of the previous 3,300 pounds, and now strikes at 37 mph instead of 31 mph.
This new test method results in an 82 percent increase in strike energy. To earn a good rating, the vehicle must retain the shape of its occupant compartment, the SID-II dummies must not show any sign of severe injury, and the car's seatbelts and airbags must prevent the dummies from making head contact with the interior of the vehicle.
The new test highlighted the risk of serious pelvic injuries. Cars such as the Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Highlander, Pathfinder and QX60 earned good test ratings, but still showed moderate risk of injury to the pelvis. The Palisade, Telluride and Murano all showed a high chance of severe torso and pelvic injury. Overall, the Mazda CX-9, and Volkswagen ID.4 performed the best. Despite some disappointing results from safety leaders, the IIHS is pleased with the improvements seen in the latest test.
"It's encouraging to see so many midsize SUVs from different automakers earn good ratings in this more challenging evaluation. These results will help confirm the adjustments they need to make to other vehicles going forward," says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller.