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Safest 2016-2017 5-passenger SUVs for Families

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles for 6 or more passengers.  In this part, we will look at 5-passenger SUVs for families who don’t need a 3rd row of seating for one reason or another.

As with the larger vehicles, we have the same basic requirements to trim the long list of very safe vehicles to those qualifiers that stand out from the pack:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2015 or 2016
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test result or rollover rating of 3-stars or less

There are some new entrants this year, with improved designs qualifying for top crash test results.  One new model, the 2016 Nissan Murano, has not yet qualified due to incomplete NHTSA testing.   It may be added in a future update, once these tests are completed.   The 2015 Mercedes ML-Class is discontinued, replaced by the 2016 GLE-Class that also has incomplete crash test results.  The 2016 Mazda CX-5 received a 4-star overall rating from the NHTSA and did not qualify this year.

  1. XC602014-2016 Volvo XC60
  2. 2015-2016 Subaru Outback
  3. 2014-2016 Subaru Forester
  4. 2016 Honda CR-V
  5. 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  6. 2016 Hyundai Tucson
  7. 2016 Toyota Rav-4
  8. 2015-2016 Lexus NX
  9. 2016 Lincoln MKX
  10. 2016 Acura RDX
  11. 2016 Volvo XC90

Safest SUV for 2016:

EP-150px2015-2016 Subaru Outback, a repeat winner this year.  Some may argue that this is not a true SUV, but rather a glorified station wagon version of the Legacy sedan we reviewed, and that is a reasonable debate.  Subaru and the EPA consider it to be a crossover/utility vehicle, so we do as well.  Plus, the midsize Outback is a bit larger than most other qualifiers, and has slightly more rear hiproom for 3 passengers or carseats.  You certainly can’t argue with Outback’s luxury-class safety at an entry-level price.

Subaru is to be commended for offering a full set of advanced safety features on a lower trim level model. Notably, the EyeSight system that earns the Top Safety Pick+ award also received the highest possible “Superior” rating by the IIHS in their front crash prevention rating and is one of a handful of vehicles this year to actually prevent a collision altogether in both of their tests.   What’s more impressive is that the Outback 2.5i Premium trim can be equipped with automatic transmission and the excellent EyeSight Safety System for just under $30,000 MSRP.

Outback aced the IIHS crash tests with “Good” results in every test and sub-category of each test.  The Outback also received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA with 5-star results in all five crash test evaluations and a 4-star rollover rating.  Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a backup camera are standard on all trim levels.  Plus, you get their excellent AWD system standard and very reasonable fuel economy at 25 city, 33 highway on regular gas.  Not bad for a 3,500 pound SUV with all-wheel-drive standard!

Runners Up:

Recommended-150pxThe 2014-2016 Volvo XC60 and 2016 Acura RDX also received “Good” and “5-star” ratings in every individual crash test.  They are also slightly larger than many compact SUVs.  The XC60 base level trim earns a Top Safety Pick+ and an Advanced low-speed frontal crash prevention rating starting around $36,000.  To add AWD and the “Superior” rated autobrake system to compete with Subaru’s Eyesight, you must step up to the Premier trim with Technology Package, bumping the price up to $43,000.   The RDX is similarly priced around $37,000 in 2WD trim with the optional AcuraWatch Plus system that earns a Superior frontal crash prevention rating to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award.  For a full set of advanced safety features, including Blind Spot information and Cross Traffic Monitor, you must also add the Technology Package, bumping the price to $42,000 with AWD.

Honorable Mentions:

2016 Volvo XC90 T5 and 2016 Lincoln MKX.  Full crash testing on these models was published too late to be considered for our awards, but either one is clearly as safe as our award winner.  The XC90 has more room for 3-across carseats and is larger than any other qualifier.  The T5 earned the highest results in every test and qualifies as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with STANDARD equipment, unusual even for luxury vehicles.  At just over $46,000 with AWD, it is also more expensive than the smaller award winners.  The 2016 Lincoln MKX is also a true midsize and second only to the XC90 in terms of space.  It also aced both IIHS and NHTSA crash testing with perfect results.  The least expensive trim to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award is the Reserve 102A with optional Driver Assist package.   This bumps the price of safety to over $47,000 with AWD.  Inflatable seatbelts in the rear seat can be an issue with various carseats.

Recommended-150pxThe 2014-2016 Subaru Forester, 2016 Hyundai Tucson and 2016 Honda CR-V are technically compact vehicles, but still offer excellent crash protection, “Superior” rated frontal crash prevention systems and a suite of accident avoidance features at more reasonable prices.  The Tucson is a hair larger than the other two, while the CR-V had slightly better NHTSA crash test results.  The Forester is an all-around great performer in this class and can be equipped with the top rated EyeSight system for under $25,000.  That makes it the least expensive model on this list when equipped to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.  Honda and Hyundai force you to buy the top-of-the-line trim package for these features, driving the cost of the CR-V and Tucson shamefully above $32,000 to match the safety of the Forester.

Compact models may lack the necessary width in the back seat to fit three carseats.  At the very least, fitting three children will require very careful selection of carseats and boosters, so please consider this when buying any small car or SUV for a larger family.

Stay tuned for our Safest Family Sedans for 2016 Award!

Updated June, 2016

SafeDad writes about automobiles, carseats and traffic safety issues at CarseatBlog