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Major Flaws Revealed By the IIHS' Passenger-Side Small Overlap Front Crash Test

June 2016 is the first time the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety experimented with the passenger-side small overlap front crash test. And what the IIHS found is that some automakers ignore this part of the vehicle as far as structural rigidity is concerned, a condition that takes its toll on passenger safety in the event of a crash.
Passenger-side tests of midsize SUVs reveal some major flaws 1 photo
Fast-forward to October 2017, and that’s when the IIHS introduced the passenger-side small overlap front crash test to the testing procedure. Of the 13 nameplates crashed back then, the Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet Malibu were both rated “marginal.” The Volkswagen Jetta, meanwhile, couldn't cut it above “acceptable.”

On this occasion, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety took eight mid-size SUVs down the path of destruction. Make no mistake about it, this type of crash test is no walk in the park. Ford and Jeep apparently didn’t get the memo, which is why the Explorer and Grand Cherokee were rated “marginal” for their safety deficiencies.

“Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies,” explained 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.”

In the case of the Explorer, intrusion reached 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) at the lower door hinge pillar. By comparison, the Grand Cherokee managed 10 inches (25.4 cm). Adding insult to injury, the head of the dummy seated in the Jeep “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.”

In the “acceptable” corner, we have the 2018 model year Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, and Honda Pilot. As for the nameplates that scored “good” overall, the IIHS recommends the 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, and 2018 GMC Acadia. Of the newly rated SUVs, only the Sorento earned the Institute’s coveted Top Safety Pick+ award.

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