Safest Family SUVs for 2017


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.

To make this year’s list of qualifiers reasonably short for 5-passenger vehicles, our standards are a little stricter than for 3-row SUVs.  In particular, the vehicles must have a Top Safety Pick+ award (for either 2016 or 2017) and 5-stars in all three NHTSA 2017 crash ratings.  That means a lot of very safe vehicles will just miss the cut!  If your SUV is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe.  It just means it didn’t quite get the top results like our qualifiers or, in some cases, has not yet been fully crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2016 or 2017
  • Must have NHTSA 5-star crash ratings (overall, frontal, side) for 2017.
  • NHTSA rollover rating of 4-stars or above.

There are some new entrants this year, with improved designs and features qualifying for top crash test results.  We may add other models to this list once both the IIHS and NHTSA issue complete crash testing results.  Our qualifiers:

  1. 2016-2017 Acura RDXXC60
  2. 2016-2017 Hyundai Tucson*
  3. 2016-2017 Lincoln MKX*
  4. 2016-2017 Mazda CX-3
  5. 2015-2017 Subaru Outback
  6. 2014-2017 Volvo XC60
  7. 2016-2017 Volvo XC90*

*We include some models that qualified for a Top Safety Pick+ award in 2016.  They do not meet the IIHS requirements for the 2017 award only due to marginal, poor or untested headlights.

Safest SUV for 2017:

2015-2017 Subaru Outback, our winner for the third year in a row.  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. 2017_obk_photos_ext_21Notably, 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 over $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:

The 2014-2017 Volvo XC60 and 2016-2017 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+ with an Advanced low-speed frontal crash prevention rating starting around $41,000.  To add AWD and the “Superior” rated autobrake system to compete with Subaru’s Eyesight, you must add the optional Advanced Package, bumping the price up to $46,000 on the T5 trim with 2WD.   The RDX is less expensive, around $38,000 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 to compete with the Outback, including Blind Spot information and Cross Traffic Monitor, you must also add the Technology Package, bumping the price to $42,000 with AWD.

The 2016-2017 Hyundai Tucson is technically a compact vehicle, but still offers excellent crash protection, a “Superior” rated frontal crash prevention system and a suite of accident avoidance features at more reasonable prices.  In fact, it is the only small SUVs to earn a “Good” rating in an experimental IIHS small offset test for the front passenger (the normal testing is an impact on the driver side).  2017-hyundai-tucson-ext-18-ruby-wine At around 176″ long and 3450 pounds, the Tucson is a bit larger than most small SUVs, more similar to the XC60 in size. We note that the Tucson qualifies as a 2016 IIHS Top Safety Pick+.  For 2017, it only earns a Top Safety Pick rating in the Limited trim level with optional Ultimate Package.  Unfortunately, this is the only way to equip the automatic emergency braking system that qualifies for the IIHS award.  You must also get the Limited trim to get the headlight system rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS.  The problem is that the same Ultimate Package that gives you automatic emergency braking also adds curve adaptive headlights that did poorly in IIHS testing and therefore disqualified it from the “Plus” award.   The Limited/Ultimate version also drives the price to over $33,000.  Other trims have poor headlight ratings and no front crash prevention option and so do not qualify for the IIHS top Safety Pick award or our award.

2016-2017 Volvo XC90 T5 and 2016-2017 Lincoln MKX.  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 $47,000 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 $48,000 with AWD.  Inflatable seatbelts in the rear seat can be an issue with various carseats.  These models do not qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award in 2017 only due to Marginal or Poor headlight ratings.  On the other hand, these are the longest, widest and heaviest vehicles among our qualifiers and may have an advantage for fitting three-across carseats in back.

Honorable Mention:

The 2016-2017 Mazda CX-3.  The only small, non-luxury SUV to make our list with a 2017 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award AND all 5-star ratings in the NHTSA crash tests.  Sadly, this model only qualifies as a Top Safety Pick+ in the most expensive Grand Touring trim with the optional i-ACTIVSENSE Package.  Even so, the price ends up being a somewhat reasonable $27,000 in 2WD trim to qualify for our award, making it the least expensive model on our SUV list with top safety ratings.  Its main disadvantage for hauling family is its small size, notably the 69″ width and limited 2nd row interior hip room.  The relatively narrow seating will make it difficult for 3-across carseats.  It is also the lightest model on our list at 2,900 pounds, a slight disadvantage in frontal head-on crashes.

Stay tuned for our Safest Sedans of 2017 award!

Updated January, 2017

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