Popular SUVs flunk crash test for passengers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Driving a sport utility vehicle can make you feel like the king of the road - or at least safer than in a little car. However, new crash tests show the big comfy cars still don't protect passengers the way they should. Two popular models flunked a recent crash test done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Resarchers at the auto safety organization said automakers have made great strides in protecting drivers if an SUV sideswipes an object like a pole or tree. However, the researchers said, they still haven't made great strides in protecting passengers in the front seat.

Crash tests showed deficiencies in airbags, seat belts and overall structure in some models. On a positive note, three of the eight models tested received top ratings. Three more were ranked as "acceptable,'' However, two of them received a poor rating: The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer.

The institute found the Explorer's structure collapsed when the front right side crashed against a wall. That put the front passenger at risk of hip and leg injuries

In the Jeep Grand Cherokee test, the side airbag failed to deploy and the dummy's head hit hard against the dashboard, IIHS reported.

The Jeep's parent company. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), said in a statement: "All FCA vehicles meet or exceed federal safety standards," and are "engineered to address real-world driving situations. No single test measures overall vehicle safety."

Ford said, "The Explorer is a safe vehicle and has earned the highest 5-star overall NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) ratings, as well as 'good' ratings in front- and side- IIHS crash tests. We fully expect next year's all-new 2020 Explorer will perform well."

The IIHS gave its top rating for front-passenger safety to the 2019 Kia Sorento. Other top performers were the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas and the 2018 GMC Acadia. The "acceptable" ratings went to the 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder and 2018 Honda Pilot.

The IIHS said it started doing passenger-side crash tests just last year as a way to encourage carmakers to pay more attention to safety of folks riding shotgun.

Click here for the full findings.

Written and produced by Renee Koury
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