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

Mazda received top safety honors from the IIHS in 2017, while Ford did not. The average cost of SUV auto insurance is 18% higher than normal vehicles.

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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
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UPDATED: Nov 9, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Safety tests are conducted on new vehicle models each year, and the results help buyers make informed decisions regarding the safest models for whatever type of vehicle they want to purchase
  • Mazda’s two 2017 small SUVs both rank among the year’s safest vehicles
  • The Ford Escape is ranked in the bottom of the three safety tiers

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) are the two institutions most responsible for vehicle safety research. The organizations conduct eight tests, each of which fits into three broad categories.

The results are then combined and compared within those categories.

The three categories are:

  • Crashworthiness – The five tests in this category are each associated with a different part of the vehicle to measure its ability to protect the occupants of the vehicle should any impact occur.
  • Crash avoidance & mitigation – The two tests in this category test the vehicle’s ability to prevent crashes and to lessen the impact of any accidents that may happen.
  • Child seat anchors (LATCH) – This single test scores vehicles regarding how easy to use their built-in child safety devices are. However, some studies have indicated that it is safer when parents install child seats on their own rather than use those built into the vehicle.

Once the results of the tests are certain, they are weighed with the most import given to the tests related to crashworthiness and the least related to the LATCH. As all these findings are combined and weighed, the results of similar vehicles are then compared.

While you’re comparing safety ratings, spend a little time comparing insurance quotes. Use our free rate tool above to see several quotes from top insurers at once!

How the Results in Each Category Are Scored

  • Each of the five vehicle parts tested for crashworthiness is given a rating of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor. The parts tested for small SUVs are small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof, and head restraint & seats.
  • The front crash prevention test (one of the crash avoidance and mitigation tests) is scored as either Superior, Advanced, or Basic (not all small SUVs have available results for this test).
  • Headlights (one of the crash avoidance and mitigation tests) and LATCH are scored in the same way as the crashworthiness tests (Good, Acceptable, Marginal, Poor).

Special attention is given to vehicles that are deemed the safest based on the weighted import of each score.

The Top Safety Pick+ is awarded to vehicles that achieve a Good rating in all five of the crashworthiness tests, either a Superior or Advanced rating for front crash prevention, and either a good or acceptable rating for headlights.

Vehicles receiving this title are considered the safest. The basic Top Safety Pick is awarded to vehicles that achieve all ratings for the highest honor except for headlights.

Now that we understand the process of the tests, the terminology behind the tests, and the ratings and/or awards given to the vehicles tested we can now address the specific question at hand: Is Mazda’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Ford’s?


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Safety Ratings for Mazda & Ford SUVs


Mazda has two small SUVs, both of which have received the same grades in all eight of the tests. The Mazda CX-3 and the Mazda CX-5 each obtained a Good rating in all five of the crashworthiness tests.

Each model obtained a Superior rating for front crash prevention, and an Acceptable rating for both headlights and LATCH ease of use.

The Mazda CX-3 and the Mazda CX-5 are both ranked within the highest safety tier, and therefore, they have each been awarded the Top Safety Pick+.


The Ford Escape (the only small SUV tested from the Ford company for 2017) received an Acceptable rating in its small overlap front test.

Since this is one of the tests that measure crashworthiness, the Ford Escape is ineligible for either of the two safety picks. Furthermore, it received a rating of Basic for its front crash prevention capabilities.

The Ford Escape failed to reach the standards for special IIHS safety certification on two counts. Nevertheless, it received Good ratings on the rest of the crashworthiness texts and an Acceptable rating on its headlights along with a Marginal rating for its LATCH ease of use.

Comparison between Safety Ratings of Mazda & Ford SUVs

Although the Ford Escape meets the safety standards for some of the most important areas in being named one of IIHS’s top picks, it fails to do so once in other areas.

Both of the Mazda models compared (the CX-3 and CX-5) obtained the scores necessary to be ranked among the safest small SUVs of 2017.

Therefore, we can now make the final determination regarding the question at hand. Is Mazda’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Ford’s? Absolutely.

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