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4 Popular New Small SUVs To Avoid, They Just Failed The New IIHS Safety Test

If you are looking for the safest new small SUV, avoid these four popular new models. Check out the latest IIHS test scores. 

Four new small SUVs from the 2023 and 2024 model years received the worst test score in the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) front crash prevention test. You may want to avoid them if you are a new small SUV shopper. 

The IIHS recently updated its vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention test to address crashes that occur at higher speeds and those in which the struck vehicle is a motorcycle or large truck. Only one of the first ten small SUVs evaluated earned a good rating, the Subaru Forester. You can read my report on the top-rated Forester here.

What are the worst-performing small SUVs?

The IIHS says four new popular SUVs get the lowest "Poor" score in the updated front crash prevention ratings. I've listed the models you should know about if shopping for the safest compact SUV.

  • 2023-24 Chevrolet Equinox
  • 2023-24 Mazda CX-5
  • 2023-24 Mitsubishi Outlander
  • 2023-24 Volkswagen Taos

The next tier of small SUVs received a "Marginal" score and are underperforming in the newly updated test. 

  • 2023-24 Ford Escape
  • 2023-24 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2023-24 Jeep Compass

The next tier of small SUVs received "Acceptable" scores. 

  • 2023-24 Honda CR-V
  • 2023-24 Toyota RAV4

As mentioned above, the Subaru Forester is the only small SUV to receive the highest "Good" score from the IIHS.

What does this latest round of testing mean for small SUV customers?

"This is a vital update to one of our most successful test programs," IIHS President David Harkey said. "The vast majority of new vehicles now come with automatic emergency braking, and our research shows the technology prevents as many as half of all front-to-rear crashes. This new, tougher evaluation targets some of the most dangerous front-to-rear crashes that are still happening."

How Does The IIHS Evaluate Performance?

The IIHS testing uses targets to evaluate the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. In each test run, an engineer drives the test vehicle toward the target at the selected speed and records when the forward collision warning occurs and how much the AEB system slows the vehicle to prevent or mitigate the impending impact. If the test vehicle fails to achieve a minimum speed reduction at the slower test speeds, only the forward collision warning system is evaluated in the higher-speed tests.

In all the test runs using the trailer, only the forward collision warning system is evaluated, and the driver steers out of the lane to avoid a crash.

The IIHS says points are awarded for warnings that occur at least 2.1 seconds before the projected time of impact and for substantial speed reductions in the Auto Emergency Braking tests. Speed reductions account for two-thirds of the maximum possible score, and warnings account for one-third.

The IIHS Raises The Bar

The IIHS updated the original test because additional research showed that today's safety systems are less effective at preventing crashes with motorcycles and medium or heavy trucks than avoiding crashes with other passenger vehicles.

The IIHS says to address those issues, "Instead of the earlier 12 and 25 mph speeds, the updated test includes trials run at 31, 37 and 43 mph (50, 60 and 70 kilometers per hour). In addition to a passenger car target, it examines performance with a motorcycle target and a semitrailer. As a result, the new evaluation reflects a substantially greater proportion of police-reported front-to-rear crashes, including many more severe ones."

The IIHS Is Making It Tougher On Automakers

As I've covered the IIHS testing over the last decade, I would say the new tests are getting considerably harder for automakers to get the highest "Good" score. The IIHS is "pushing" automakers to upgrade their safety systems to perform in real-life scenarios. Some car brands like Subaru are committing more research and development to safety systems that will perform at the highest levels. Not all automakers have that same commitment level to safety.

"Obviously, crashes that happen at higher speeds are more dangerous," said David Kidd, the IIHS senior research scientist who led the development of the new evaluation, in the release. "Deadly underride crashes often occur when the struck vehicle is a large truck, and motorcyclists are frequently killed when they're rear-ended by a passenger car since their bike offers no protection from the impact."

Consumer Reports Chimes In

"The results of this testing don't mean that AEB doesn't work or that drivers should be concerned; they're actually just showing that most systems still have room for improvement," says Kelly Funkhouser, Consumer Reports' associate director of vehicle technology. That is why it's critical for organizations like IIHS to test these systems at higher speeds and with more different types of vehicles."

The Subaru Forester stands tall above the rest for customers looking for the safest small SUV. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 received second-tier Acceptable ratings and are worth a look. 


Let us know in the comments below if safety is a factor for you when considering a new small SUV purchase. Click the red Add New Comment link below and let us know.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this new small SUV safety story. See you tomorrow for my latest report.

I am Denis Flierl, a top Torque News and Subaru reporter since 2012. I’ve invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role, working with every major car brand. I am an experienced Rocky Mountain Automotive Press member. You'll find my expert Subaru analysis here. Follow me on X SubaruReport, All Subaru, WRXSTI, @DenisFlierl, Facebook, and Instagram.

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photo credit: IIHS


Lorraine Vigil (not verified)    April 28, 2024 - 5:17PM

I have a 2023 Hyundai Tucson it has 9,456 miles on I’ve had it a year and half and it’s been in the garage for different problems. 1st time just gave out on me had it towed to garage in las cruces nm.
So how can I get rid of it, I do NOT trust it to go around town or on long trips. I hope you can help me.
Thank you, Lorraine Vigil.