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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Small SUVs Earn Improved Crash Ratings

Safety Improvements Shown Across the Board

In a nod to safety improvements in SUVs during the past decade, four small sport utility vehicles earned top scores in crash tests recently released by the insurance industry.

The 2009 Ford Escape, 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan, 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander and the 2008 Nissan Rogue all earned top crash test scores in front-end, side and rear tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Adrian Lund, Institute President, said the Escape, Tiguan, Outlander and Rogue are all equipped with standard electronic stability control - which guards against rollovers - and side air bags.
The vehicles showed improvement across the board, including in the side tests, due to the safety equipment.

Lund said, "This is a huge change from just five years ago when most small SUVs were rated either marginal or poor in our side test, and standard side air bags and electronic stability control were rare."

The marks for the Escape also apply to the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute, and hybrid versions of the Escape and Mariner. The vehicles share the same underpinnings.

According to Ford's chief engineer for safety systems, Steve Kozack, the company had "devoted many hours to analyzing and improving the body structure, safety belts and air bags of Escape and Mariner for better performance in front and side impact crashes."

In the side test, the 2008 Jeep Wrangler, which was tested without optional side air bags, received the Institute's lowest score of poor. Earlier versions of the two-door vehicle had received the second-lowest score of marginal in side crashes.

In the latest test, the Wrangler's driver door opened during the crash. The opening could lead to a person being ejected from the vehicle, Lund said.

According to Chrysler LLC spokesman Max Gates, the Wrangler "meets or exceeds" all federal safety standards and "no single crash test provides a full picture of a vehicle's crashworthiness." The benefits of side air bags were revealed during tests of the 2008 Jeep Patriot. In the side test, a version of the Patriot equipped with an optional front torso air bag received the top score of good. In a separate side test, a Patriot without the side air bags received the second-lowest score.

Both versions of the Patriot earned the second-highest score of acceptable in the front-end test.

In other tests, the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara earned the highest score in the front-end test and the second-highest mark in the side test.

The 2008 Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, without optional side air bags, earned the top rating in the front-end test and the second-lowest score in the side test.

Carolyn Markey, a GM spokeswoman, said that starting in 2009, the Equinox and Torrent would come with head curtain side-impact air bags as standard equipment.

Markey said GM develops its vehicles to provide protection in more than 150 types of collisions. She called the IIHS side test a "single and very severe test."

The Institute has encouraged automakers to make side air bags and electronic stability control standard equipment on new cars and trucks. Electronic stability control will be required on all new vehicles by the 2012 model year. Automobile manufacturers have said they will make side air bags standard across their fleets by the 2010 model year.

The vehicle's side is struck by a barrier moving at 31 miles per hour in the institute's side test. The barrier replicates the front end of a pickup or sport utility vehicle. A shorter, more lightweight barrier strikes into the side of the vehicle at 38.5 miles per hour in the government's side-impact tests.

Online courses are now available to educate drivers on the rules of the road and the latest defensive driving techniques. Try it today!

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