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If you have a teenager who is driving (or soon-to-be driving), you may find yourself stressing about what kind of vehicle you should get them. Or you may be wondering which SUV to buy yourself, since your kid will likely be driving it. If that’s the case, you should turn to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS is a non-profit organization which tests cars and shares the data so that consumers can make informed decisions about auto safety. These are the six 2022 midsize SUVs that they say are best for teens. It’s important to note that while these are the IIHS’ most recent picks, the 2022 SUV list hasn’t been released yet, so the 2021 models are the most recent.

A silver 2021 Mazda CX-9 against the city.
2021 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

6. The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is one of the IIHS’ best SUVs for teens

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is one of the IIHS’ picks for the best SUVs for teens. It’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, meaning it has good crash test scores, good or acceptable headlights available, and superior or advanced safety systems. One thing to keep in mind when you’re car shopping is that there are different trim levels available for each model and you want to make sure that the one you get has good safety ratings. You can check it out on the IIHS website.

The Mazda CX-9 – and all CX-9 trim levels – come with a suite of safety equipment. This includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and blind-spot monitor. All CX-9s also come with lane keep assist.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 starts at $35,335 for the Sport. The Mazda CX-9 Sport comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sport comes standard with front-wheel drive, though there’s an optional all-wheel drive as well.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 also comes with LED headlights and heated side mirrors, as well as rain-sensing windshield wipers. The interior has a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a second-row bench seat. A 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment screen comes standard in the 2021 CX-9, and it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.

5. The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is unsurprisingly on this list

The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is a shoe-in for an honor such as one of the best SUVs for teens. It has the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award as well as good headlights and superior ratings for front crash prevention in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian categories.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also tested the 2021 Palisade. The NHTSA gives the Palisade five stars for everything except for rollover. Both the 2WD and 4WD get four stars. You can get the 2021 Hyundai Palisade for just $32,675.

4. The 2021 Nissan Murano has superior safety systems

The 2021 Nissan Murano is one of the best SUVs for teens. Not only is it an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winner, it also has superior front crash prevention systems for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian. In fact, everything about the Murano is good except for the seat belt reminders, which only get an accceptable rating.

The 2021 Nissan Murano price starts at $32,810. It gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. It also comes with automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, and rear-cross traffic alert. The 2021 Murano has lane departure warning and high beam assist.

3. The 2021 Toyota Highlander is one of the safest SUVs for teens

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. You do have to pay attention to which headlights you buy, as only the Highlander Platinum and Hybrid Platinum trims have good headlights. The rest of the Highlander trim levels only have acceptable headlights, and that includes a whole lot: the L, LE, Hybrid LE, XLE, Hybrid XLE trim, XSE, Limited, and Hybrid Limited trims all have just acceptable headlights.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander price starts at $35,085. It comes with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. The 2021 Highlander also has lane tracing assist and road sign assist.

2. The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is safe as long as you buy the Calligraphy or Limited trim

If you want the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe, you’ll have to buy the Limited or Calligraphy trim level to get an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. The Santa Fe comes with driver attention warning, forward collision warning, blind-spot collision, and blind-spot monitor. It also has surround view monitor and lane keeping assist.

1. The 2021 Kia Sorento is a super safe SUV for teens

The 2021 Kia Sorento is one of the safest SUVs for teenagers. It has good headlights – provided you get the SX or SX-Prestige trim levels. The LX, S, and EX trim levels all have poor headlights, so shop carefully.

The 2021 Kia Sorento price starts at $29,390. The Sorento comes with forward-collision avoidance, cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and rear occupant alert.

The best SUV for teens is the safest one that you can afford. Using the IIHS list as a starting point of SUVs to consider is a great idea.


Why the 2022 Mazda CX-9 Can’t Break Into the Top 3 Midsize SUVs