With gas prices hovering around $4 throughout much of the country, every day the news seems to feature another story about dealer lots filled with unwanted SUVs while small econoboxes are selling for sticker price or more. Yet with so many commuters ditching their heavy haulers for something more petite, there is one issue that seems to get overlooked -- safety. After all, back when Tahoes and Expeditions ruled the road, many owners defended the guzzlers by saying they offered more protection on the highway than little, eco-friendly tin cans. But now, with those same people piloting Fits and Yarises, you don't hear that argument quite so much.
In addition, surrounding yourself with lots of sheetmetal isn't always the best protection -- despite their small appearance, many small cars are actually very safe, at least according to their crash-test results. When the smart fortwo arrived on U.S. shores, many wondered how it would hold up in a wreck, but in recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing the minicar was impressively crashworthy. And sometimes the opposite can be true, too -- when the last-generation F-150, for example, was tested by the IIHS, the truck crumpled like a soda can. So given that size doesn't guarantee protection and for many drivers small is the new big, anyway, this raises a question: Which 10 cars on sale today will hold up the worst if you wrap them around a tree?
Since agencies test and rate vehicle crashworthiness differently, to keep things consistent this list is based on IIHS results only, which are considered to be the strictest. And while the IIHS' list of cars is extensive, they haven't crashed everything on the market (for example the Jeep Patriot was tested but the Compass was not) so some cars may be missing. The institute tests vehicles based on three different crash types -- front impact, side, and rear -- and cars can earn a score of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor for each one. Thankfully, nothing made today has a front-impact score worse than Acceptable, considering older cars like the '97-2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport and '99-'02 Mercury Villager rated Poor in the category. Yet to earn a place in the top ten, no vehicle can do better than Acceptable on any test, since it manages to score Good in any category it at least deserves credit for that.
Included with every car is each of its scores, separated by front-, side-, and rear-impact tests. In general, a bad side collision is judged as worse than a poor rear impact score, and since several scored the same, extra weight is given to smaller cars, family haulers, and more modern designs that should be better. So after careful research into the complete index of IIHS crash test results, here are the Top 7 trucks & SUVs with the lowest safety ratings you can buy today, in order of best to worst.
7. Hummer H3 -- Front: Acceptable, Side: Acceptable, Rear: Poor
6. Jeep Patriot (without optional side-airbags) -- Acceptable, Marginal, Acceptable
5. Mitsubishi Raider/Dodge Dakota -- Acceptable, Marginal, Poor
4. GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado -- Acceptable, Poor, Marginal
3. Mazda B Series/Ford Ranger -- Acceptable, Marginal, Poor
2. Saab 9-7X/Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy -- Acceptable, Poor, Marginal
1. Suzuki Forenza -- Acceptable, Poor, Poor
What's your opinion, do you think crash tests are a good judge of vehicle safety? Which cars do you think are the most dangerous? And most important, do you care?