4 SUVs win top crash test scores

From the Associated Press

Four small sport utility vehicles earned top scores in crash tests released Wednesday by the insurance industry, a nod to safety improvements in SUVs during the decade.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave top crash test scores in front-end, side and rear tests to the 2009 Ford Escape, 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan, 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander and the 2008 Nissan Rogue.

Institute President Adrian Lund said the Escape, Tiguan, Outlander and Rogue were all equipped with standard electronic stability control -- which guards against rollovers -- and side air bags.

The safety equipment helped the vehicles show improvement across the board, including in the side tests.


“This is a huge change from just five years ago, when most small SUVs were rated either marginal or poor in our side test, and standard side air bags and electronic stability control were rare,” Lund said.

The marks for the Escape also apply to the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute, and hybrid versions of the Escape and Mariner. The vehicles share the same underpinnings.

Steve Kozack, Ford’s chief engineer for safety systems, said the company had “devoted many hours to analyzing and improving the body structure, safety belts and air bags of Escape and Mariner for better performance in front and side impact crashes.”

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler, meanwhile, which was tested without optional side air bags, received the institute’s lowest score of poor in the side test. Previous versions of the two-door vehicle had received the second-lowest score of marginal in side crashes.


Lund said that during the latest test the Wrangler’s driver door opened during the crash. The opening could lead to a person being ejected from the vehicle, he said.

Chrysler spokesman Max Gates said the Wrangler “meets or exceeds” all federal safety standards and “no single crash test provides a full picture of a vehicle’s crash-worthiness.”

Tests of the 2008 Jeep Patriot showed the benefits of side air bags. A version of the Patriot equipped with an optional front torso air bag received the top score of good in the side test.

A Patriot without the side air bags received the second-lowest score in a separate side test.


In other tests, the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara received the highest score in the front-end test and the second-highest mark in the side test.