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BUYERS GUIDE: 2016 Model Year Mid-size Crossover Safety – Which Score Best, and At What Cost?

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Mid-size crossovers are the new family cars. We look at which popular models have the best safety ratings and what you have to pay to get the safety upgrades.

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Since cars have now jumped the shark, the affordable mid-size crossover market is the fastest growing segment in the auto industry. General Motors reported recently that this is now the largest non-truck automotive segment of all. Being family-oriented, safety is, of course, a key concern for many buyers. In this segment, most (not all) of the vehicles perform very well on all crash tests, including the small frontal overlap test which simulates the vehicle striking a pole with just the front corner of the car. Those type of accidents are surprisingly deadly, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made a score of “Good” a requirement on all crash tests for 2016 for a vehicle to earn its highest rating called Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+). However, crash tests are just one part of safety. The new litmus test for vehicle safety is crash avoidance technology. Commonly called Forward Collision Prevention (FCP) with Emergency Auto Braking (EAB), this technology can stop a car before it hits a car ahead of it. (Note: Going forward we are going to refer to both technologies combined as FCP) The technology has been proven to work via a comprehensive, five-year study. It reduces rear-end crashes by 40% and also reduces whiplash injuries, the most common type of injuries in vehicles.

BestRide recently ranked all the top-selling affordable crossovers from top to bottom regarding sales. Here, we take one more step and we re-rank the crossovers based on their safety ratings and which offer FCP and EAB, and at what cost. None of the vehicles on this list offer FCP as standard equipment. Thus, as a buyer, it is important to realize that the safety accolades the automakers advertise often require optional equipment. Here is what we found:

The $26K Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium with the $1,295 EyeSight FCP package is the current value leader for safety. At just $27,295 it is the least expensive, mainstream family crossover with FCP and the IIHS TSP+ rating.  Though the Subaru Forester is not a top seller in the U.S. overall, in snowy areas like the Northeast, it is often in the top three for sales.  Eyesight is also one of the highest ranked FCP systems overall, regardless of cost.

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The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is a TSP+-rated crossover that is slightly larger than most of the compacts in this group.  Its SEL AWD trim with the optional $1,550 Advanced Safety Package rings in at just $29,395, making it the second least expensive crossover on our list with top safety credentials.

In January of 2016, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 was the top-selling family crossover. The RAV4 includes FCP standard on its top $34K Limited Trim, but buyers must pay $2,460 extra to get FCP as part of the Convenience Package on the $29K XLE trim.  To get a TSP+-rated RAV4, the minimum cost is about $4K more than a Subaru Forester.

The 2016 Honda CR-V was the best-selling crossover for the full 2015 calendar year, and it may well pass the RAV4 again.  To get FCP on a 2016 CR-V one must go all-in for the $33K Limited model.  Honda does not make this important safety feature available on lower trims.

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Nissan’s 2016 Rogue was the fourth most popular crossover. Rogue never makes FCP standard, but it is offered on its $31K SL trim for an added $2,190 as part of the SL Premium Package.

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 with FCP costs $31K. On this stylish crossover, the added cost is $1,500 and called the iACTIV-Sense package.

Crossovers Without Top Safety Scores:  The Ford Escape is the third-best-selling family crossover. Its 2016 model does not offer FCP on any trim, and is the only mid-size crossover to score Poor on the small frontal overlap test.  The Escape changes for 2017, but it has not yet been rated for safety.  Chevy’s Equinox (fifth-best-selling crossover) does not offer FCP.  The Jeep Cherokee does offer FCP on some trims, but it does not score “Good” on the small frontal overlap test (Marginal).

Conclusion:   Compact crossovers offer many safety features inherent to their design.  All offer AWD which has been proven to reduce driver deaths.  The higher seating position gives a better view in winter over snow banks at intersections, and the higher seat may also be safer in side crashes involving pickup trucks and other large vehicles.  However, what separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of crossover safety these days is a “Good” score on all IIHS crash tests and also affordable active safety systems.  As our analysis proves, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the safest compact crossover.

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John Goreham

John Goreham