Caution! These 10 Cars Score Low in Important Safety Categories

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is cheaper than a standard Outlander but was hit with low safety scores | Mitsubishi

If you are involved in a collision, passengers in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks tend to be better off than those in a subcompact car. There is no surprise in this department; size is a crucial factor in an accident. However, there is the chance for auto consumers to get a false sense of security riding high in a pickup or SUV. It takes more than bulk to be one of the safest cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) devote a good part of their resources to testing and reporting on such safety flaws in new vehicles. According to the latest round of IIHS crash tests, small SUVs feature remarkably poor headlights. The best of the bunch was Mazda CX-3 in Grand Touring trim. Only three other new vehicles in the category (Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Hyundai Tucson) had acceptable headlights.

Considering many SUVs with bad headlights or a high risk of tipping over have otherwise high safety scores, purchasing decisions can get complicated for U.S. consumers. Beginning in 2017, any Top Safety Pick+ winner must have good or acceptable headlights. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this weakness. Here are 10 new vehicles with low safety scores in important categories.

1. Nissan Rogue

2016 Nissan Rogue
2016 Nissan Rogue | Nissan

Nissan Rogue is one of the small SUVs slapped with a poor headlight rating by the IIHS. Consumers might see the 2016 model’s Top Safety Pick designation and consider it a safe vehicle, but this flaw can create danger for drivers at night. According to IIHS, government standards in place focus on lab testing rather than real-world driving, which can allow poor visibility to slip through the cracks. Basic front crash prevention is another area where Rogue is less than perfect in the safety department.

2. Jeep Renegade

Jeep Renegade Commander
Jeep Renegade was among the industry’s worst in chances for rollover and quality of headlights |  Jeep

In terms of rollover risk, the Jeep brand was the worst of the bunch, and NHTSA crash tests put Renegade near the bottom of the pack with a 23% chance of tipping over. The news on headlights was not much better. According to IIHS testing, Renegade had poor headlights, joining two other Jeep models with this dubious distinction. Though this FCA brand has appeal for adventure lovers, four-wheel drive models have a number of flaws on the safety front.

3. Chevrolet Colorado

Chevy Colorado Duramax Diesel | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Chevy Colorado Duramax Diesel | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

While heavier duty pickups like Ram 2500 and Ford F-250 had a slightly higher risk of tipping over, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon featured the worst rollover risk (21.4%) among midsize and 1500 models. This NHTSA test focuses mainly on the risks involved when vehicles hit objects on the road. Colorado and Canyon are generally safe when swerving out of harm’s way. However, if there is any contact with obstructions, rollover risk becomes a factor.

4. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport front grille
Poor ratings for Outlander Sport headlights should give consumers pause | Mitsubishi

Outlander Sport is the brand’s best-selling vehicle on the U.S. market in 2016 as the lower-priced model of two available Mitsubishi SUVs. Compared to Outlander, a Top Safety Pick+ winner for 2016, the Sport model is behind in both small front overlap crash testing (acceptable) and headlight ratings (poor). Likewise, there is no front crash prevention technology available in Outlander Sport. These weaknesses should make consumers think during the SUV shopping process.

5. Toyota 4Runner

2015 Toyota 4Runner
4Runner had the highest chance for tipping over among large SUVs | Toyota

For five straight model years, Toyota 4Runner has been unable to get better than three of five stars in NHTSA rollover crash tests. It has been stuck at 24.6% chance of rollover for that entire span, which makes it the worst among large SUVs on the U.S. market. That weakness is not the only one consumers should note. IIHS tests yielded only marginal ratings — one above poor — in the front overlap test. No front crash prevention equipment is available, either.

6. Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V
The all-new 2016 Honda HR-V had the worst headlights of any small SUV | Honda

In its report on the poor headlight quality of small SUVS, the IIHS singled out the 2016 Honda HR-V as the worst of the bunch. “The illumination provided by the HR-V’s halogen low beams and high beams is inadequate on all four curves and on the straightaway,” the agency wrote in a July 12 release. Consumers who want to upgrade on these headlights won’t be able to do so in the new HR-V. One would expect more from a model given five stars in NHTSA testing.

7. Audi Q3

Audi Q3
Audi Q3 was among the worst in one important safety feature | Audi

Luxury cars tend to offer better safety as part of the package. In the Audi Q3 small SUV, consumers might be reassured by the Top Safety Pick designation. However, Q3 turned out to be among the bottom of the barrel — alongside the much cheaper Fiat 500X and Jeep Patriot — despite the $34,500 price tag of the Premium Plus model tested. The lack of front crash prevention technology ought to be another red flag for consumers who prize safety above all else in a vehicle.

8. Chevrolet Tahoe

Chevrolet Tahoe
Though good in a collision, passengers in a Chevrolet Tahoe are far from invincible | General Motors

Like other large SUVs in the GM stable, Chevrolet Tahoe has never scored better than three stars of five in NHTSA rollover crash tests. Tahoe joined Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon with a 22.9% chance of rollover, which made it one of the 10 worst on the U.S. market. It may be big enough to take up several parking spaces and tower over most vehicles on the road, but Tahoe is more likely to flip than any small car and most SUVs, too.

9. Subaru Forester

Subaru Forest XT | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Subaru Forester XT | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

If we were playing “name that car brand” and you said “safe and affordable,” our first response would be “Subaru.” How could it possibly be otherwise? Every single car and SUV the automaker produces landed a Top Safety Pick+ award for 2016. However, the Subaru Forester will need a highlight upgrade to maintain the brand’s perfect record in 2017. According to the IIHS, the headlights on the new Forester have excessive glare and are hurt by no automatic switching between low and high beams.

10. Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wrangler is one of the most dangerous vehicles on sale in the U.S. | Jeep

Jeep Wrangler should never be confused with the models on this list with high safety scores. Whereas Forester is a Top Safety Pick+ that could improve on its headlights, Wrangler scored poorly in so many safety categories it can only be considered a dangerous vehicle. IIHS gave it poor ratings in side crash tests and headlights. Meanwhile, it only scored marginal in small overlap front and head restraint tests. NHTSA rollover tests gave it a 27.9% chance of rollover, making it second-worst in that department, too.

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