Small SUV study highlights safety flaws, group says

(CBS News) The small SUV is becoming the modern version of the family station wagon, but safety experts say the average car may be safer than some SUVs as a tougher crash test is exposing their safety flaws.

As Joe Nolan, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, explained to CBS News' Chip Reid, "when we look out at the real-world crash data, there's a crash mode that's not been accounted for, and it's called 'small overlap.'"

It's the kind of crash that experts say causes 25 percent of serious injuries or deaths in frontal collisions. Only a portion of the front bumper is involved in these types of crashes, but that can effectively bypass some of the safety mechanisms automakers already have in place.

The insurance institute recently started testing these crashes, and the results for small SUVs have been released. Nolan said of the results, "We're a little disappointed that only two vehicles performed well out of the 13 in this test."

According to the insurance institute, the 2014 Subaru Forester performed best, followed by the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

Nolan said, "What these tests show is that a large majority of the small SUV manufacturers have a lot of work to do to improve the performance in this crash mode."

The Ford Escape had the worst safety results. In a statement to CBS News, Ford said it "takes seriously every industry development related to vehicle crash performance and is reviewing the test results."

Others that received a poor overall rating were the Jeep Patriot, the Buick Encore, the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson.

Nolan said, "I think some of them are resigned to not getting the best results but are working internally to improve it in the next iteration."

And it's important to note most of the SUVs that performed poorly have done relatively well in other types of crash tests.

Watch Chip Reid's full report in the video above.

Comments