The 2014 Subaru Forester is the first vehicle to earn top marks in every aspect of a challenging new crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Forester, the only one of 13 small SUVs to earn the institute's rating of good in the new frontal crash test, and the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which earns acceptable, are the latest to qualify for the institute's top honor, Top Safety Pick+.
"With the redesigned Forester, Subaru's engineers set out to do well in our new test, and they succeeded," Joe Nolan, the institute's vice president for vehicle research, said in a press release. "This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes."
The new crash test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or object. The institute added the small overlap frontal crash test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year.
Most vehicles are designed to do well in the government's full-width frontal crash test and in the institute's moderate overlap frontal crash test, but not necessarily for the small overlap test. Crashes that involve a small portion of the front of the vehicle account for almost a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injuries, according to a 2009 institute study of vehicles with good ratings for front crash ratings. An institute video explains the difference between its moderate and small overlap frontal crash tests.
The Forester and the Outlander Sport bring the number of Top Safety Pick+ winners to 20. To qualify for the award, a vehicle must earn good ratings in four of five tests and no less than acceptable in the fifth. The award is based on performance in the small overlap front test, as well as in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear crash tests.
The institute continues to award Top Safety Pick (without the plus sign) to vehicles with good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their small overlap ratings. Of the small SUV test group, nine earn Top Safety Pick, including the:
- BMW X1
- Buick Encore
- Ford Escape
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Kia Sportage
- Mazda CX-5
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- 2014 Patriot
The 2013 Patriot also qualifies for Top Safety Pick when equipped with optional side torso airbags. Another small SUV, the 2013 Toyota RAV4, earns the award, but won't undergo the small overlap test until later this year. Toyota asked for the delay so it could make changes to the RAV4 to improve performance in the test.
The test group also includes the Rogue and the Jeep Wrangler two-door. Aside from the Forester, all small SUVs tested are 2013 or 2012 models. The small overlap ratings of the 2012 vehicles carry over to 2013 models because no significant design changes were made.