Look, sure. You need a vehicle with more space. You like to ride higher off the ground, too, because you can see more of the road from there. An SUV is an obvious choice. But if you care about the person in your passenger seat, maybe the 2018 Ford Escape and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport aren’t the way to go.
In recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or what most of us know it better as, IIHS, the Escape and Outlander Sport did not impress anyone with their overlap crash protection on the passenger side. IIHS did its small overlap front test on the two SUVs, which it introduced last year to try to get automakers to give front passengers the same level of protection as drivers, and let’s just say most of us wouldn’t have wanted to be those crash-test dummies.
The small overlap test rams vehicles into a wall, trying to imitate a crash where only a quarter of the car’s front end hits a tree or post at 40 mph. This round of tests was on seven 2018 small SUVS, including the BMW X1, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Mitsubishi Outlander, Jeep Compass, and the two that didn’t do so well—the Outlander Sport, which IIHS gave a “marginal” rating on the passenger overlap test, and Escape, which got a “poor” rating.
Jalopnik has reached out to both Ford and Mitsubishi for comment on the SUVs’ crash tests. Here’s the video IIHS took during testing:
While it’s evident from the video that the Escape and Outlander Sport weren’t best in class for the passenger overlap test, IIHS explained their ratings in an announcement on this new batch. IIHS said both SUVs has too much intrusion into the passenger compartment, and that neither of their side curtain airbags deployed in the crash. Those help keep people from slamming their heads into the side of the car and should have deployed, according to IIHS.
IIHS called the passenger-side problems with the Outlander Sport and Escape “unequal protection” in the ratings announcement, and that’s an accurate way to describe it. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of how the 2017 Escape did on the driver’s side and how the 2018 did on the passenger’s side:
After seeing the crash aftermath, IIHS said the passenger in the Escape likely would’ve gotten a right-hip injury in it.
While most of the vehicles on the list of best selling cars in 2017 got the IIHS Top Safety Pick award, it’s a good idea to check crash-test ratings before buying a new car—especially when the ride heights and extra space in all of those new crossovers and SUVs are particularly alluring.
Update 12:02 p.m. Ford sent Jalopnik a statement on the test, saying safety “continues to be one of the highest priorities in the design of [its] vehicles.”
“We are committed to designing and building vehicles that meet or exceed applicable laws and regulations across the globe, incorporating updates and new features into our lineup wherever possible,” the statement said. “The Escape has earned the highest 5-star overall NCAP ratings in the U.S., Europe, China and Australia and a ‘good’ rating in all other IIHS crash test modes. We expect the new 2020 model also will perform well on this test.”
The statement also responded to IIHS’ claims on the Escape’s side airbags, and said “the design of the Safety Canopy is to inflate in certain side impact crashes and when a certain likelihood of rollover is detected by the rollover sensor.”
“Side airbags and Safety Canopy airbags may activate in other types of crashes if the vehicle experiences sufficient sideways motion or deformation,” the statement said. “The fact that the Safety Canopy did not activate in this crash test does not mean that something is wrong with the system. Rather, it means the accident conditions were not appropriate to activate this safety device.”