Is BMW’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Audi’s?

The IIHS gave BMW's X1 SUV a higher safety rating than Audi's Q3 during recent tests. Safety features can lower auto insurance rates by up to 8%.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Nov 3, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Safety ratings can help drivers choose a vehicle that will be safer on the road and save money on insurance
  • Choosing a Top Safety Pick vehicle will give drivers the chance to know their vehicle has met the rigorous standards set by the IIHS
  • The BMW X1 received a Top Safety Pick award, but the Audi Q3 did not

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is able to offer different official safety ratings for vehicles they have tested.

To get these ratings, vehicles must go through several crash tests and technical tests to determine the rating they’ll receive from the IIHS.

The Institute focuses only on tests that will be realistic and match up with actual situations that could happen to a vehicle on the road.

Safer cars can earn you lower car insurance rates. Compare your rates today to find the best coverage for your situation. Enter your zip code above to get started.

Determining Ratings


As the IIHS tests different vehicles, they will assign a rating for each of the different systems they test. The IIHS does this so vehicles can be compared next to each other and so drivers will have a good idea of what they will be able to get out of the vehicle.

Vehicle manufacturers can also use these tests to help them figure out where they need to improve and which areas they are excelling at while creating vehicles.

The three categories they test for safety are as follows:

  • Crash avoidance and mitigation – auto brakes (rated superior, advanced, basic) and headlights (rated good, acceptable, marginal, poor)
  • LATCH rating – ease of use for the child seat anchors (rated good, acceptable, marginal, poor)
  • Crashworthiness – how a vehicle protects its occupants during a crash (rated good, acceptable, marginal, poor)


Auto Brakes and Headlights

The auto brake features and headlights help vehicles to avoid a crash and navigate in different areas. The IIHS tests the auto brake by testing a vehicle’s stopping ability at both 25 miles per hour and 12 miles per hour.

The Institute tests the headlights by using them on a straightaway, gradual turns to each side and sharp turns to each side.

The X1’s headlights came in at “marginal” because they did not meet the requirements for the reach they had on a straightaway. They also did not meet the requirements for how far the light could reach.

Overall, the Q3 received a rating of “poor” for its headlights because they were inadequate during every test.

The auto brake system was available with optional equipment in the X1. It stopped completely at 12 miles per hour but was only able to reduce its speed by 13 miles per hour from 25 miles per hour.

There was no data for the IIHS to record for the Audi Q3’s auto brake system.

LATCH Rating


LATCH is important because it protects children who are restrained in child safety seats in the car.

The X1 had a LATCH system that received a rating of “acceptable” because it was too hard for the user to get around the LATCH system while putting the seat into the car.

The Q3 received a rating of “acceptable” because the LATCH system required too much force for the user to put into attaching the child safety seat.

Crash Test Ratings

The small size SUVs that are available from BMW and Audi are the X1 and the Q3 respectively. The IIHS performed crash tests on both of the vehicles and each received a score based on what the vehicle did when it was in a collision.

The IIHS made sure they did every test possible, but there were some areas that could not be tested in both of the vehicles.

For the tests, the IIHS used the 2017 models for the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3. Neither vehicle received a score for the passenger-side small front overlap test.

They both received ratings of “good,” which is the highest rating, in the other areas including:

  • the sides
  • roof
  • restraints in the vehicle

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Top Safety Pick Recipient

The BMW X1 received the Top Safety Pick award in the small SUV class thanks to the good ratings it had during the crash tests and the advanced rating it received for crash avoidance equipment.

There were only two other small SUVs that received the award. The vehicle did not have any poor ratings in each of the major categories which made it eligible for the Top Safety Pick award.

Since the BMW X1 had a higher overall score to qualify it for the Top Safety Pick award, it was a safer vehicle than the Audi Q3.

The Q3 ranked lower on the list because it had poor headlights and no information available for the auto brake feature.

Even if it did have better auto brake equipment than the X1, it couldn’t be used because there was no data for the feature.

A Safer Vehicle

People who are shopping for small SUVs or any vehicles often consider many different things when they’re looking at vehicles.

Safety is usually toward the top of the list, but the safety of a vehicle should not be the only consideration drivers have for the vehicle they are planning to purchase.

Cost and the space inside a vehicle are also two major considerations people have when they are shopping for a vehicle.

It is important for potential buyers to look at every aspect of the vehicle and the way it can save them money. Choosing a Top Safety Pick over a vehicle that didn’t win an award can save money on insurance.

Choosing a smaller-sized small SUV can save drivers on the cost of fuel, and choosing a vehicle that is less expensive will always save drivers more money upfront while they’re shopping around.

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