You’re nobody unless you have a sporty, useful utility vehicle on sale for around $25,000 these days. The competition among automakers has gotten fierce in this segment, especially with the “crossover” small and midsize SUVs gobbling up much of U.S. sales. To stand out in this segment, automakers are pushing to deliver more horsepower and better fuel economy for lower price tags than their rivals are charging.
Another way to separate from the pack is by delivering on standard and optional safety features that make an SUV both family hauler and protector at once. The Safercar.gov website lists the vehicles that perform best on NHTSA frontal crash, side crash, and rollover crash tests to come up with an overall vehicle safety rating from one to five stars. Though there are 2015 SUV models still left to be tested, here are the five that landed five-star safety ratings.
5. 2015 Kia Sorento (FWD and AWD)
Both the front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) models of the 2015 notched five-star overall safety ratings following the barrage of testing by the NHTSA. The base LX model ($24,100) offers 191 horsepower with its 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg on the highway. Choosing the LX trim ($26,500) offers a huge jump in power to 290 hp from the 3.3-liter V6.
On the safety front, the 2015 Sorento scored a perfect five stars in frontal and side crash tests and notched four out of five stars in the rollover crash test. No 2015 SUV has aced the rollover test so far this year.
4. 2015 Mazda CX-5 (FWD and AWD)
Mazda had its 2015 CX-5 named a 2014 Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when equipped with Smart City Brake Support. Following that, it received a five-star crash rating to boost its safety credentials even more. The 2015 CX-5 landed perfect scores in the frontal crash and side crash tests by the NHTSA while landing four stars out a possible five in the rollover test.
At a base price of $21,545, the Mazda CX-5 is the lowest priced car on the list. At 35 highway mpg with the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G (155 hp) engine, it is also the most efficient. The 2.5-liter engine (184 hp) offers 32 highway mpg.
3. 2015 Subaru Forester AWD
Motor Trend named the Subaru Forester the SUV of the Year in 2014. Other accolades in the bag include Top Safety Pick Plus honors from the IIHS (when equipped with optional Subaru EyeSight) and a five-star overall crash rating from the NHTSA. The EyeSight driver assist technology uses two cameras mounted on the rearview mirror to monitor traffic movements and help drivers respond. Should danger exist ahead, the technology will flash a warning and apply the brakes if drivers don’t have time.
The base 2.5i model ($22,195) offers 175 hp in the 2.5-liter Subaru Boxer engine. Fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 24 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway. Every model is equipped with AWD and landed four of five stars in frontal and rollover tests with a perfect score in the side crash test.
2. 2015 Volvo XC60 (AWD and FWD)
Volvo has alwasy been synonymous with safety. In its 2015 XC60 wagon, that association got stronger with its Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the IIHS and its overall five-star crash rating from the NHTSA. The XC60 aced the frontal and side crash tests and scored four out of five in the rollover test, the highest among SUVs. Optional collision warning and lane departure sensors provide the full suite of safety technology.
What may surprise most about the 2015 Volvo XC60 is the power under the hood. Volvo’s base TE Drive-E FWD model ($35,750) houses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of churning 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. On top of this impressive output, it can manage 31 highway mpg.
1. 2015 Acura RDX (AWD and FWD)
Rounding out the class is the luxurious Acura RDX, the SUV that has one of WardAuto’s ten best interiors with its standard leather appointments. It makes this list because of its overall five-star crash rating awarded by the NHTSA for the 2015 model. Acura’s RDX notched a perfect five-of-five stars in frontal and side crash tests. As all the other cars on this list did, the RDX scored four of five stars in the rollover crash test.
The base model ($34,895) packs a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V engine capable of producing 273 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. While both the FWD and AWD models received the five-star crash rating from the NHTSA, the front-wheel model gets the superior fuel economy at 28 highway mpg and 20 mpg in the city. All RDX comes standard with a V6 engine and variable cylinder management.