If you’ve recently read a Genesis GV80 review or – more likely – you are aware of the huge accident Tiger Woods had in his new GV80 in February 2021, you’ll know why Genesis cars’ safety is suddenly a talking point again. Questions were asked. Did the GV80 perform well in the crash? Would Woods have been better off in a crossover SUV of another brand? Well, wonder no more, because the GV80 has just netted the 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) – the agency’s highest accolade.
It seems that Woods could indeed not have been in a safer vehicle at the time of his accident than his Genesis and that his extensive injuries would probably have been even worse in another vehicle with a lower safety rating. The GV80’s crash performance is no fluke either since the Genesis G70, G80, and G90 are all recipients of the 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award as well. But thanks to Woods, there is a renewed focus on SUV safety, so let’s look at SUVs’ safety in general.
Whether modern SUVs are safer than normal passenger cars is not actually a simple question to answer, even though most people believe they are. The short answer is that their active safety is generally worse in comparison to passenger cars, but their passive safety is often better. Active safety refers to a vehicle’s ability to avoid an accident. SUVs generally handle worse than low-riding cars, have lower grip limits, and can roll over more easily thanks to their increased height and higher center of gravity. So they’re not the best at avoiding an accident.
Passive safety is a vehicle’s safety in an accident and its ability to protect its passengers. Here SUVs’ safety ratings can be misleading, because, in a crash test against a fixed barrier, an SUV might get the same rating as a sedan. However, SUVs are generally larger, higher, and heavier, which are advantages in collisions with smaller vehicles. So, an SUV that perhaps only achieved four stars in its crash test might still protect its occupants better in a collision with a five-star small city car, simply by dint of its size and weight. It’s called the vehicle-incompatibility factor.
The Most Important Advanced Safety Features In SUVs
Give a high, heavy SUV good passive safety is, therefore, not too difficult, but mitigating the risks of other road users in normal cars crashing into them is. Around 30 years ago, if your car were hit by another car, you were 132 percent more likely to die if the other car were an SUV. Today, that figure has dropped to around 28 percent for SUVs but it is a terrible 159 percent for pickup trucks because of the vehicle-incompatibility factor.
So, if you’re shopping for an SUV, don’t just look at cargo space, the number of seats, fuel economy, or engine horsepower; make sure it has advanced driver-assistance safety features to avoid accidents, such as:
- Forward-collision warning and automatic braking systems. These systems’ sensors detect traffic driving ahead of you and alert you if you approach a vehicle too quickly from behind. The more advanced systems can brake automatically, typically at city speeds. Top-end systems function at highway speeds as well and can even detect pedestrians and cyclists.
- Blind-spot warning and assistance systems. These systems monitor your vehicle’s blind spot – the areas not visible in your rear-view mirrors – and alert you if there is a vehicle there, so you don’t collide with them or cause an accident during a lane change. They can also often warn of traffic approaching fast from behind in the adjacent lane. The warning can be a light or a chime.
- Lane-departure warning and assistance systems. Cameras monitor road markings to make sure you are driving in your lane and an alert will warn you if you leave your lane without signaling. This can be a light, a chime, or a steering-wheel or seat vibration. The more advanced systems offer steering assistance to automatically keep you in your lane.
- Adaptive cruise control. This system’s radar sensors maintain a set following distance behind other traffic and it’s fully automatic. This type of system can usually brake and accelerate by itself, but more advanced ones also work in slow traffic and will even stop and pull away automatically in slow-moving traffic.
- Backup camera. Backup cameras have been compulsory on car models sold in the USA since the 2000s and remain a great safety feature. Check your camera display when backing up, so you can see hidden obstacles or small children or pets behind you – don’t just look over your shoulder.
The Safest SUVs In The US
SUVs that score a Top Safety Pick+ at the IIHS must score ‘Good’ in the moderate front overlap, the driver-side small overlap, and the passenger-side small overlap crash tests, as well as for the roof-strength and head-restraint tests. Furthermore, cars must attain ‘Advanced’ or ‘Superior’ ratings for their available front crash-prevention technology, in terms of detecting both vehicles and pedestrians. Finally, the car’s headlights must earn an ‘Acceptable’ or ‘Good’ rating.
Here are the 2021 SUVs that meet the criteria for a Top Safety Pick+ rating:
- Acura MDX and RDX
- Audi Q5, Q5 Sportback, e-tron, and e-tron Sportback
- Cadillac XT6
- Ford Bronco Sport and Explorer
- Genesis GV80
- Hyundai Palisade and Nexo
- Lexus NX
- Mazda CX-3, CX-30, CX-5, and CX-9
- Mercedes-Benz GLE
- Nissan Rogue and Murano
- Subaru Forester and Ascent
- Toyota Highlander
- Volvo XC40, XC60, XC60, and XC90
SUVs are generally very safe vehicles and modern crossovers’ design has made them more friendly to smaller vehicles in a crash. Large, body-on-frame SUVs and trucks are still the most unforgiving vehicles to crash against. The good news is that America’s most popular cars are becoming safer by the day and sometimes a celebrity crashing one of them is all we need to remind ourselves that we’ve never had it this good in terms of vehicle safety.