In 2014, the U.S. purchased two crossover SUVs for every three sedans.
Now, more people are buying crossover SUVs than full-size SUVs and minivans combined. Why? Because they're ostensibly safe, easy to get in-and-out of, affordably-priced, and designed for families and weekend adventurers. The car hits that sweet spot between utility, price, and broad appeal.
Unfortunately, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) tested the 2018 Ford Escape and 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander, and found that in both cases, the vehicles did not protect front seat passengers nearly as well as drivers. The test employed by researchers was called the "small-overlap" test, and it is designed to replicate a hit from a utility pole, tree, or another car.
The vehicles earned a "Poor" and "Marginal" rating from the IIHS, respectively. Moreover, the side airbags did not deploy as designed.
On the driver's side, the cars earned a "Good" and "Acceptable" score. Why the difference in safety? IIHS researchers believe it's because Ford added structural reinforcements to the 2016 Escape specifically to perform better on the small-overlap test. However, those same changes weren't made to the passenger side.
It's worth noting that in general, the passenger side of a crossover SUV is less durable than the driver's side. The BMW X1, the Chevrolet Equinox, the GMC Terrain, the Jeep Compass, and the two cars mentioned above all had discrepancies between the driver's side and passenger's side safety. However, the Escape performed the worse–and only the Outlander and the Escape failed to deploy their side airbags.
Crossovers Are Doing to Sedans What Sedans Did to Station Wagons
Crossovers are SUVs for people who don't drive SUVs. They're built on a car frame, but with the height and roominess of a truck. They're wildly popular and becoming more common every day, but with such high sales, Ford and other manufacturers need to ensure they're not just providing the illusion of safety. They need to actually be safe for passengers.
We hope manufacturers take the lead from the 2016 Ford Escape and create a safer passenger-side experience. Otherwise, there will be thousands of passengers on the road who believe their family's "safe" vehicle isn't actually protecting them as well as they think.