Is Kia’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Ford’s?

Deciding which small SUV is safer between the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape is easy. The Sportage's autonomous braking system makes it the safer small SUV.

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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 9, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The IIHS and HLDI, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, tests are recognized in the industry as reliable measures of safety.
  • Both the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape performed well on tests of crashworthiness.
  • The Kia Sportage performed well on the Front Crash Prevention Test and was awarded the designation of Top Safety Pick+.
  • If you are choosing between the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape, the Kia Sportage is the clear winner when it comes to safety.

Cars have a wide span of safety features available, making some vehicles much safer than others. Newer cars can prevent crashes from even happening better than cars from just a few years ago.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) perform a test of crashworthiness on new cars. 

Using this data, we’ll be comparing the safety ratings of the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape.

You can compare car insurance quotes between these vehicles for yourself by using our free tool above!


Crashworthiness is a test of the vehicle’s ability to protect a driver and passenger during a crash. A crashworthiness test consists of six different tests including:

  • small overlap collision on both the driver side and passenger side
  • moderate overlap collision
  • side-impact safety
  • roof strength
  • safety of seats and head restraints

A new test, the front crash prevention test, measures the effectiveness of autobraking systems to decrease the impact of a crash or to avoid the crash altogether.

Headlights and the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children), which helps parents properly install child safety seats, are also tested.

Each test is scored with one of four ratings. In order from best to worst, the ratings are Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. A well-defined rubric is used to determine how a vehicle scores on each test.

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The newly designed Kia Sportage received a rating of Good on all six tests.

The driver’s space was well protected with minimal intrusion measured on both the instrument panel and the foot and leg area, which would result in a low possibility of injury to the driver or passengers.

One deduction for the Sportage was taken on the small overlap front passenger-side test because the amount of intrusion in the safety cage was more than the intrusion on the driver’s side.

The door sill invaded the passenger’s space by 12 cm. A score of Acceptable was assigned to the structure and safety cage element of this test because even with the damage to the vehicle, there was still a low risk of injury to the passenger.

The Ford Escape also performed well on the crashworthiness test, but not as well as the Kia Sportage.

The driver-side small overlap front test was graded Acceptable for the Escape.

An intrusion of the upper interior and lower interior into the driver’s space was too much to be given a rating of Good but still kept the intrusion at a safe amount, making the risk of injury to the driver unlikely.

A deduction was also taken for the restraints and dummy kinematics benchmark. In this test for the Ford Escape, the dummy’s head loaded the frontal airbag, but slid to the left, allowing the opportunity for injury to occur.


Front Crash Prevention

This test checks the performance of the vehicles in braking and avoiding front-to-rear collisions. For a rating of Superior or Advanced, a vehicle must have an auto brake system. It is in this test that a clear winner emerges between the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape.

The Kia Sportage received a Superior rating in the Front Crash Prevention test. The optional autonomous emergency braking allowed the Sportage to completely avoid a collision in both the 12 mph test and the 25 mph test.

The Ford Escape is not equipped with an auto brake system. Vehicles with no auto brake systems are automatically assigned a rating of Basic.


The Kia Sportage comes away with a rating of Acceptable, one rating below Good for the LATCH System. This test requires that the lower anchors be no more than ¾ inches deep in the bight of the seat. The lower tethers were found to be deeper than that.

For a good rating, the upper tethers, which hold the back of a child seat in place, must be located in the upper 85 percent of the seatback. The upper tethers were found to be lower than that.

Other benchmarks for the LATCH test include making sure the tethers and latches are easy to find and easy to maneuver around. The latches in the Sportage passed those tests.

The Ford Escape missed several of the benchmarks designated for a Good rating. The tether hardware was placed so that it could be confused with other hardware in the vehicle. The lower anchors were placed too deep in the seat.

Missing these benchmarks earned the LATCH system in the Escape a rating of Marginal, two ratings below the best rating of good.

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Top Safety Pick

The 2017 Kia Sportage was designated a Top Safety Pick+. For this designation, a vehicle must achieve a rating of Good in the crashworthiness test.

The vehicle must also be awarded a rating of advanced or superior in the front crash prevention test.

The 2017 Kia Sportage met both of these benchmarks.

Designating which small SUV is safer between the Kia Sportage and the Ford Escape is easy. The autonomous braking system allowed the Sportage to completely avoid a collision both at slow and moderate speeds. It is a safer small SUV.

The safety rating of a vehicle can make a big difference in the cost of insurance. While one model of a car may be affordable to drive off the lot, it may turn out to be more expensive over time.

Before you select a vehicle, get a free insurance quote right here to consider the whole picture of the cost of your new car.

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