Despite achieving the highest possible small-overlap score, the Wrangler failed to win either of the “top safety” honors because of substandard results in other tests. Vehicles must achieve “good” or “acceptable” ratings in all five IIHS crash-test scenarios to qualify for “top safety” picks.
In the small-overlap test, the Murano received good ratings in structure, restraints and kinematics as well as in all four dummy- injury measures.
IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said the Murano likely did well because Nissan had integrated the test into the development of the redesigned Murano.
“The small-overlap test did definitely play a role in the development of the Murano,” said Nissan spokesman Phil Lienert. “Safety was a top concern for the Murano, and it features what we call our ‘safety suite.’”
The Flex earned good ratings in all four dummy-injury measures, an acceptable rating in restraints and kinematics, and a marginal rating in structure.
The small-overlap test is considered to be exceptionally rigorous because the vehicle’s front-end crush zone is bypassed, making it more difficult for the vehicle to manage the crash energy. Vehicles that fare well in other IIHS crash-test scenarios don’t always meet the same success in the small-overlap test.
“This is a newer test based on research that shows this is a scenario not covered by government testing,” Rader said. “A poor performance doesn’t mean these vehicles are suddenly unsafe.”
There are now seven of what IIHS calls “midsize SUVs” that qualify for “top safety’’ designations, Rader said. Previously earning the honor were the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander.
In the institute’s small-overlap frontal crash test, 25 percent of the driver’s-side front end strikes a barrier at 40 mph. Small-overlap frontal crashes account for about a quarter of all injuries and deaths that occur in frontal crashes, according to IIHS. The test was adopted in 2012.
Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge Journey -- which had received good ratings in the moderate-overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints and seats tests -- received a poor rating in the small-overlap front crash test.
The Dodge Durango and Jeep Cherokee also received good ratings in the other four IIHS crash-test scenarios but performed below IIHS standards in the small-overlap front crash test, for an overall safety rating of “marginal.”
FCA spokesman Eric Mayne said the automaker is still confident in the safety of the Journey, Durango and Cherokee, emphasizing that “no single test” can account for the overall safety of a vehicle.
The Journey, which was introduced in 2008, features a considerably older design than the other vehicles in this round of small-overlap front crash testing.
“What we are noticing is that older designs are doing less well,” Rader said.
The Jeep Wrangler was the only FCA vehicle in this round of small-overlap front crash testing to receive a good overall rating.
The Hyundai Santa Fe received a marginal rating in the small-overlap test.
Since the insurance institute introduced this test in 2012, automakers have responded in two ways, the institute said in a statement. The first is by integrating the test into the development of new models, as with the Nissan Murano, and the second is by making modifications to strengthen the front structure and improve airbags before a model goes through a redesign.
“We know that performance in the small-overlap test boils down to the structure of the vehicle,” Rader said. “As automakers integrate the small overlap into their vehicle testing and development, we expect to see improvements.”
While the Wrangler fared well in the small-overlap front crash test, it has received only marginal scores in the side and head restraints and seats crash tests.