When shopping for a new crossover, fuel economy, performance and a low base price are important, but not as important as safety. After all, how your crossover performs in a crash can mean the difference between life and death. Luckily, it’s easy to find a crossover that can keep your family safe.
Checking Safety Scores
There are two resources you should use to check safety ratings: the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While IIHS and NHTSA have different scoring guidelines, both resources give you a good perspective of vehicle safety.
IIHS grades vehicles by giving them a score of “Good,” “Acceptable,” “Marginal” or “Poor” in front, side, roof strength and rear crash tests. The safest crossovers on the market receive a top score of “Good” in all four areas and have standard electronic stability control. IIHS highlights electronic stability control because this system helps avoid crashes by automatically applying the brakes when the driver begins to lose control.
To identify top scorers, look for the “Top Safety Pick” label on the IIHS website. A number of crossovers are “Top Safety Picks,” so you shouldn’t have trouble finding the perfect model for your lifestyle. If you’re looking at upscale crossovers, the 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 Volvo XC60 and 2011 Cadillac SRX are stylish choices with great performance. More affordable “Top Safety Picks” include the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Unlike IIHS, the federal government grades vehicles using a five-star safety-rating system. The safest cars on the market receive five out of five stars in four areas: overall, front, side and rollover crash tests.
According to NHTSA, the 2011 Volvo XC60 is one of the safest crossovers on the market, receiving a five-star rating in every area except rollover crash tests. The more affordable Chevrolet Equinox receives a four-star overall rating. Both the XC60 and Equinox are “Top Safety Picks.”
It’s difficult to combine safety scores from organizations with different standards, but it’s a good idea to look at scores for the same model. If you encounter a model that gets high scores from NHTSA, but isn’t a “Top Safety Pick,” take time to understand why. Take the Acura MDX, for example: it isn’t a “Top Safety Pick,” but the federal government gives it a five-star overall rating. The fact that it isn’t a “Top Safety Pick”, however, doesn’t mean the MDX is unsafe – it just means the MDX’s roof strength hasn’t been tested yet.
The Toyota RAV4, on the other hand, is a good example of a crossover that receives lukewarm reviews from both IIHS and NHTSA. It gets a three-star overall rating, three stars in front crash tests and four stars in side and rollover tests. From IIHS, the RAV4 gets a top score of “Good” in front, side and rear tests, but a lower score of “Acceptable” in rear crash tests.
After you check out safety scores, learn about a crossover’s standard safety features. IIHS, for instance, won’t recommend a vehicle unless it has standard electronic stability control. Automakers use different terminology to describe this system; whatever it’s named, make sure that any crossover you buy has it.
Other important safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. You don’t have to pay a lot to get a safe vehicle. The Kia Sportage, for example, starts at about $18,300, and comes standard with a traction control system, electronic brake force distribution, downhill brake control, hill assist control, anti-lock brakes and brake assist.