Sales of crossovers and full-size SUVs have skyrocketed in the U.S., so much so that you could call 2014 the Year of the Truck. It appears 2015 will be no different. Considering the affordable price and impressive efficiency of the latest small and midsize SUVs, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Americans gravitate toward this vehicle segment.
Drivers concerned about the safety of their families inside the call would also do right to choose a crossover or midsize SUV. Crash tests by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) have revealed 16 small or midsize SUVs that are worthy of either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ designation for the 2015 model year.
Here are the nine SUVs and crossovers named Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS for 2015.
1. 2015 Mazda CX-5
What if you wanted the most efficient SUV on the market but you couldn’t spend more than $25,000? The Mazda CX-5 would be the obvious answer, and with its Top Safety Pick+ designation for 2015, you could cover all the bases. Mazda boasts that its 35 miles per gallon on the highway is even better than hybrid SUVs can manage. That’s not bad for the base $21,545.
In crash tests, the CX-5 scored the highest possible rating in each of the five categories — small front overlap, moderate front overlap, side, roof strength, head restraints and seats — and managed an “Advanced” rating in front crash prevention with the optional Smart City Brake Support.
2. 2015 Honda CR-V
Being the eighth-best selling vehicle in America, most U.S. consumers won’t need an introduction to the Honda CR-V ($23,320). While not quite as efficient (34 miles per gallon) or affordable as the CX-5, Honda’s compact crossover comes awfully close. It also matched the CX-5’s score (“Good) in each of the five crash tests to earn its Top Safety Pick+ award for 2015.
In fact, the CR-V bested Mazda’s crossover by landing a “Superior” rating for front crash prevention. The IIHS says the CR-V is in elite company when equipped with the optional Collision Mitigation Brake System.
3. 2015 Subaru Forester
Speaking of sales dynamos, the Forester went on a tear in 2014. Subaru’s best-selling vehicle had managed to gain 31% over its performance the prior year and surged into the top 30 in U.S. automobile sales. Standard four-wheel drive, 32 highway miles per gallon, and its MSRP of $22,195 will do that for a SUV.
Its Top Safety Pick+ designation for 2015 also can’t hurt. Forester aced each of the five IIHS crash tests and landed a “Superior” rating for optional front crash prevention on the merits of the optional EyeSight package.
4. 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander
While the Outlander (GT) Sport is Mitsubishi’s best-selling model in the U.S., the ES ($23,195) and SE ($24,195) trims are the safest. The IIHS awarded the 2015 Outlander Top Safety Pick+ honors for its perfect scores in each of the five crash tests and “Advanced” front crash prevention system with the optional Forward Collision Mitigation System.
Mitsubishi might not be a volume seller in the U.S., but it has a winner in the Outlander, which contributes over half of the brand’s sales. When (if?) the plug-in version of this vehicle arrives, its prospects will only be brighter.
5. 2015 Toyota Highlander
Toyota’s Highlander is the only affordable midsize SUV ($29,415) to earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS for 2015. Getting there took an “Acceptable” rating in the small overlap front crash test and perfect scores in the other four categories, plus an “Advanced” rating for its available front crash prevention system. Drivers get the full slate of safety features with the optional Pre-Collision System in the Highlander’s Advanced Technology Package.
6. 2015 Volvo XC60
You have to expect Volvo to go big in safety, and the 2015 XC60 ($36,200) did not disappoint in IIHS crash tests. In fact, the XC60 earned Top Safety Pick+ with “Advanced” front crash prevention for its (standard, mind you) City Safety feature. Upgrade to optional Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection and you have what the IIHS deems “Superior” protection up front. What did you expect from a Volvo?
7. 2015 Acura MDX
Our vote for most attractive premium (i.e., non-Porsche) SUV is also one of the safest vehicles on the road. The 2015 Acura MDX ($42,765) aced each of the five crash tests conducted by the IIHS and landed the Top Safety Pick+ designation for its “Advanced” front crash prevention rating with optional Forward Collision Warning capabilities. Bonus points for the MDX’s smart i-VTEC engine that can crank 290 horsepower when it needs to then strip down to efficient three-cylinder operation when it doesn’t.
8. Honda HR-V
9. Honda Pilot
Honda’s new and revised Pilot SUV rounds out the list, having scored a familiar 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA. Like the HR-V, it has the option of outfitting the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, such as collision and road-departure mitigation and warning, lane-departure warning, active cruise and lane-keeping assist. As Mom always said, the best way to avoid an accident was to not have an accident in the first place. It lost a star for both frontal crash and rollover, but walked, err, drove, away with a five-star rating overall.