The SUVs With the Worst Crash-Test Scores on the 2018 Market

You probably don’t need the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to tell you that large SUVs are safer than small cars. Just look at a Smart fortwo compared to a Chevy Suburban and imagine which passengers would emerge better off after a crash.

On the other hand, car shoppers do need the IIHS to break down the safety performance of each vehicle every model year. That’s the purpose IIHS crash tests serve, and the best models of the bunch win Top Safety Pick+ awards. (For 2018, advanced headlights also became mandatory for the highest safety honor.)

Most SUVs did well in these tests. However, several models scored “poor” (the lowest rating) in various crash tests for the 2018 model year. Here are the five utility models that fared the worst.

1. Ford Explorer

2017 Ford Explorer
2018 Ford Explorer | Ford
  • Poor rating: Small overlap front, passenger side

There were a few trouble spots for the 2018 Ford Explorer. In the small front overlap driver-side test, the IIHS gave it a “marginal” rating. The headlights rated “poor.”

However, there was one crash test that Explorer also got the lowest rating: the passenger side of the small overlap front. Testing notes described the passenger space as “seriously compromised” with right hip injuries “likely” in a high-speed crash.

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee | Jeep
  • Poor rating: Small overlap front, passenger side

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee also had its share of flaws. In the small front overlap test, the driver’s side got a “marginal” rating while the passenger side rated “poor.”

An IIHS blog on midsize SUV shortcomings added some alarming details. “Measures from the dummy indicated that right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity and a head injury would be possible.”

3. Dodge Journey

View of gray 2017 Dodge Journey from front three quarter angle
2018 Dodge Journey | Dodge
  • Poor rating: Small overlap front, driver side

While most vehicles on this list struggled with the passenger-side crash tests of the small overlap front variety, you’ll find the weakest part of the 2018 Dodge Journey on the driver’s side. (Note: For this model, the IIHS did not run tests on the passenger side.)

In that test, the IIHS described the driver’s space as “seriously compromised,” with the crash-test dummy’s leg skin “gouged and torn by the intruding parking brake pedal.”

4. Ford Escape

2018 Ford Escape | Ford
  • Poor rating: Small overlap front, passenger side

Ford’s compact SUV did not fare much better than the Blue Oval’s larger model in the small overlap front test.  While the driver’s side test received an “acceptable” rating, the passenger’s side rated “poor.”

While injuries to the passenger’s right would be likely in a crash at high speed, other areas of the body would remain safe, the IIHS found.

5. Toyota RAV4

2018 Toyota Rav4 Limited | Toyota
  • Poor rating: Small overlap front, passenger side

Finally, there was one oddity in the IIHS crash tests for crossovers and SUVs. That came in the ratings for the 2018 RAV4. Though this model received a Top Safety Pick award, it rated poorly in small overlap front test on the passenger side.

For this year, the IIHS did not include the passenger side test in its consideration for its lower safety award. (Top Safety Pick+ winners need an “acceptable” or “good” rating here.)

By acing the rest of the tests, RAV4 made it out with an award. We’d bet the 2019 model will improve upon this performance.