The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated nine vehicles in results released Friday. None got the institute's highest rating, but the 2003 Honda Pilot earned the second-highest rating. The Pilot sustained an average of $404 in damages in each of four tests.
Automakers have criticized the bumper ratings, saying they have nothing to do with the safety of the vehicle. But the institute defends them, saying no vehicle should sustain major damage at the 5 mph test speed.
"The manufacturers of these SUVs try to create a rough-and-tough image for them, but their bumpers are flimsy," said Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer.
The institute performed four tests, crashing both the front and rear bumpers into a flat barrier and a pole. The tests are designed to reflect fender benders common in heavy traffic or parking lots.
The 2003 Kia Sorento sustained the most damage, with an average of $1,646 per test. The 2003 Toyota 4Runner, 2003 Infiniti FX35, 2004 Chrysler Pacifica and 2004 Cadillac SRX also sustained average damages of more than $1,200 per test, earning the institute's lowest rating.
The Cadillac SRX and the Chrysler Pacifica both sustained $2,814 in damages, the highest amount, when they were backed into a pole. In each case, the tailgates weren't protected by the bumper and had to be replaced, Lund said.
The 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor, 2004 Lexus RX330 and 2003 Nissan Murano all received the institute's third-highest rating. Each sustained an average of $789 to $988 on the tests.
No midsize SUV from the 2001 to 2003 model years has earned the institute's highest rating on the bumper tests. The institute has given its second-best rating to four midsize SUVs: the Pilot, BMW X5, the Acura MDX and the Chevrolet Trailblazer, which has the same bumper design as the Oldsmobile Bravada and the GMC Envoy.