What are the best and worst new midsize SUVs in rear passenger safety? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most new midsize SUVs fail miserably in the latest crash test ratings. See why the 2023 Subaru Ascent excels in rear passenger protection.
"All these vehicles provide excellent protection for the driver," said IIHS President David Harkey, "but only a handful extend that level of safety to the back seat."
The IIHS says they recently updated its moderate overlap front crash test to add a rear passenger dummy behind the driver. Although the test still includes a driver dummy, rear passenger protection is the main thing currently differentiating vehicles in this new test.
The best midsize SUVs in rear passenger protection
Of 13 midsize SUVs tested, only four, the Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent, and Tesla Model Y, earn the highest "Good" ratings and excel at rear passenger safety.
"Zeroing in on weaknesses in rear seat safety is an opportunity to make big gains in a short time since solutions that are already proven to work in the front can successfully be adapted for the rear," said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Marcy Edwards, who led the development of the updated test. "The four good ratings in this round of testing show that some automakers are already doing it."
The midsize SUVs that failed in rear passenger protection
Three others, the Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas, earn "Marginal" ratings and fail. And six more, the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Murano, are rated "Poor" and fail miserably.
The IIHS says that for midsize SUVs to earn a "Good" rating, sensors in the second-row dummy must not exceed limits indicating an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, or thigh. The Video footage below and greasepaint applied to the dummy's head must confirm that the restraints prevented the head from hitting the vehicle interior or coming too close to the front seatback and also prevented the dummy's body from "submarining," or sliding forward beneath the lap belt, which causes abdominal injuries. A pressure sensor that monitors the shoulder belt's position on the dummy's torso is also used to help gauge the risk of chest injuries.
Emily Thomas, Consumer Report's manager for auto safety, says safety has lagged for rear occupants, particularly regarding advanced restraints. "Historically, crash testing has targeted safety advancements for front seat passengers and improved safety overall for all occupants," Thomas says. "However, now is the time to take those safety learnings from the front and focus on the back seat. Tests like these spur automakers to make those changes," said Thomas.
The Subaru Ascent is only one of four new midsize SUVs to earn the highest "Good" score in the new IIHS rear passenger safety test. The top score includes the 2022 and 2023 Ascent midsize SUV model years. The test reveals that back-seat passengers are as well protected in a crash as front-seat passengers.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Photo credit: Subaru USA