How Do SUVs Stack Up?

FYI story image
The 2009 Nissan Murano was the best performer in new crash tests of midsize sport utility vehicles, while the Hummer H3 had one of the poorest showings, according to results released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The institute, which is funded by the insurance industry, said the redesigned Murano was the only vehicle among the nine tested to get the highest rating in front, side and rear crash tests. It praised Nissan Motor Co. for making electronic stability control standard on the 2009 Murano. The system, which helps prevent swerving, was an option on previous models.

"You don't know what kind of crash you're going to get into, so you want a vehicle that affords the best protection in the most common kinds of crashes," Joe Nolan, the institute's senior vice president, said in a statement.

SUV Crash Test Results

How 10 SUVs fared in crash tests from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Rankings include good, acceptable, marginal and poor.

2009 Nissan Murano: Good
2007-08 Mazda CX-7: Good
2007-08 Mazda CX-9: Good
2007-08 Mitsubishi Endeavour: Good
2008 Suzuki XL7: Good
2006-08 Hummer H3: Acceptable
2007-08 Jeep Wrangler: Good
2008 Jeep Liberty: Good
2007-08 Dodge Nitro: Good
2007-08 Kia Sorento: Good

2009 Nissan Murano: Good
2007-08 Mazda CX-7: Good
2007-08 Mazda CX-9: Good
2007-08 Mitsubishi Endeavour: Good
2008 Suzuki XL7: Acceptable
2006-08 Hummer H3: Acceptable
2007-08 Jeep Wrangler: Marginal
2008 Jeep Liberty: Marginal
2007-08 Dodge Nitro: Marginal
2007-08 Kia Sorento: Poor

2009 Nissan Murano: Good
2007-08 Mazda CX-7: Marginal
2007-08 Mazda CX-9: Marginal
2007-08 Mitsubishi Endeavour: Poor
2008 Suzuki XL7: Marginal
2006-08 Hummer H3: Poor
2007-08 Jeep Wrangler: Poor
2008 Jeep Liberty: Poor
2007-08 Dodge Nitro: Poor
2007-08 Kia Sorento: Good

For the full rankings, click here.

How The Tests Are Conducted
According to the Detroit Free Press, the institute's tests are tougher than those run by the government. Some automakers alter their vehicles and pay the institute to re-run tests to garner better scores.

But the tests are generally strict: Of 94 2008-model SUVs crash-tested by federal regulators, only 10 earned less than four out of five stars.

The vehicles are evaluated based on results of 40-mph frontal crash tests, as well as:

  • Performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph.
  • Measurements of head restraint geometry - the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man.
  • Seats with good or acceptable restraint geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck.
  • Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people

    According to the IIHS, "Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test."

  • About The IIHS
    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses - deaths, injuries, and property damage - from crashes on the nation's highways.

    The Highway Loss Data Institute shares and supports this mission through scientific studies of insurance data representing the human and economic losses resulting from the ownership and operation of different types of vehicles and by publishing insurance loss results by vehicle make and model.

    Both organizations are wholly supported by auto insurers.