New passenger-side ratings for 7 small SUVs

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The IIHS tested those SUVs in what it calls a small overlap crash test simulating what would happen if the vehicle hit a tree or pole on the passenger side. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earned a marginal rating.

The good news is, said Mueller, in a previous series of passenger-side crash testing evaluations, nine small SUVs earned the 2018 Top Safety Pick designation.

The SUVs providing good protection for the person riding "shotgun" were the 2018 BMW X1, the redesigned Chevrolet Equinox and sibling GMC Terrain, the new Jeep Compass and the Mitsubishi Outlander.

The IIHS started evaluating passenger-side safety measures in 2017 to encourage manufacturers to offer the same level of protection for front-seat passengers as for drivers. In contrast, the Ford Escape's (right) occupant compartment allowed too much intrusion.

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If you want to all the institute's top safety picks and their specific ratings from now all the way back to 2006, use this link.

The Escape and Outlander Sport had acceptable results for drivers, but marginal and poor ratings on the passenger side.

Out of all seven newly rated 2018 models, none received a better than "acceptable" rating for structure, IIHS said.

Which was the case for side curtain airbags in both the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the Ford Escape in passenger-side small overlap crash tests.

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Yet the institute says, that same auto protects the driver well in a similar small overlap crash. IIHS said the Escape struggled in the test, as the passenger-side upper door-hinge pillar intruded 10 inches, compared with 5 inches on the driver side, and the door sill intruded 4 inches laterally into the cabin. The safety belt and front and side curtain airbags worked together to keep the dummy in place, and measures taken from the dummy showed there would be a low risk of injury in a similar real-world crash.

In addition, the side curtain airbag didn't deploy in the roof rail, leaving passengers' heads vulnerable to hitting the door trim or an outside object. The test involves the test vehicle hitting an offset barrier at 40 miles per hour, with only a quarter of the vehicle's front hitting a barrier, a scenario that results in a challengingly asymmetric distribution of crash forces.

"That's not something we expect to see after so many years of crash testing", Mueller said the release.

The Institute doesn't conduct passenger-side small overlap front tests on every vehicle it rates.

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