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

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Things to remember...
  • The Nissan Rogue was a Top Safety Pick+ winner, but the BMW X1 was only a Top Safety Pick winner for 2017
  • There is very little difference in insurance savings for the Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ award winners
  • Vehicles should be chosen for their all-around capabilities and not for their safety ratings alone


Founded in 1959, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, was originally an organization that was set up by three major insurance companies to help support the efforts of a safe highway.

While the Institue was able to do a lot of good work while they were supporting safety, they evolved into an independent research organization that both manufacturers and consumers relied on. In 1992, the first state of the art facility for vehicle research was created in Virginia as a place for the IIHS to do all of their testing.

The BMW X1 and the Nissan Rogue were both put through the safety tests from the IIHS and came out as award winners. The BMW X1 was redesigned in 2016 and won the Top Safety Pick+ award during that year, but it slipped from the highest award down to the second-best.

The Rogue received the Top Safety Pick+ award, unlike its sport version which did not qualify for any of the awards the IIHS has to offer.

IIHS and Their Awards

As the industry leader in crash tests and safety ratings, the IIHS has built a community for people and companies to learn more about the safety features of vehicles.

They give out awards to the vehicles that score the best in each category, and they have specific criteria that will determine whether a vehicle can qualify for the award. It is not an award that is given out freely, especially in the small size SUV class.

For the IIHS to determine how vehicles will perform during crashes and in other situations, they use tests they have taken years to develop.

The tests are all standardized so each vehicle goes through the same thing. The tests determine how safe a vehicle is during a crash, what measures it has to prevent a crash and the efficacy of the child restraints in the car.

–Collision

It is not uncommon for vehicles to be involved in a collision, and the IIHS knows that. They test the vehicles based on how they perform in front-end crashes, in side crashes, in rollover crashes and in their newest category, front passenger side crashes.

Many 2017 small size SUVs were not able to go through the front passenger side crash test because of when the IIHS began putting the test into place.

The Nissan Rogue and the BMW X1 had the exact same scores for their crashworthiness. They received G ratings, which are the best, on each of their tests except for the passenger side front crash test. The Rogue and the X1 were two of the vehicles the IIHS was unable to test with the new testing method.

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–Avoidance

To determine whether a vehicle is able to use safety equipment to avoid a crash, the IIHS uses the test to stop the vehicle using the warning system and auto brakes. For these tests, they use a rating of basic, advanced or superior depending on how well the vehicle was able to perform.

For the Nissan Rogue, the IIHS found it had a warning system, it was able to stop at 12 miles per hour and was able to stop at 25 miles per hour.

It received a superior rating. The X1 received an advanced rating had a warning system and was able to completely stop at 12 miles per hour, but could only reduce its speed by half when going 25 miles per hour.

The IIHS also puts the vehicle’s headlights in the same category as collision avoidance. The Nissan Rogue received a rating of A on the headlights with optional equipment. The BMW X1 received a rating of M on the headlights with optional equipment.

–Child Restraints

The NHSTA requires all vehicles to have a fully operable LATCH system. They also require each system to be the same in all vehicles, but they don’t require them to be placed in the same place within the seat.

The IIHS can’t judge the systems, but they can judge how easy the systems are for users who are trying to put a child safety seat in the vehicle.

The LATCH system only scored marginal in the Nissan Rogue because it was too deep in the seat and too difficult to maneuver in two out of the three seats that had the system.

The BMW X1’s LATCH system received a rating of A. It was too difficult to maneuver in just one out of the three seats (the middle) that had the LATCH system in it.

Is the BMW X1 or the Nissan Rogue Safer?

Not only did the Nissan Rogue receive a higher award for the safety measures it had in place but it was also a safer vehicle than the BMW X1.

Even though the ratings seemed the same for most categories, the slight difference in the crash avoidance system helped to make the Nissan Rogue the safer vehicle. Both vehicles won an award from the IIHS, though, which is not easy for a small SUV to do.

Considerations for Car Shopping

The lure of low insurance for Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ vehicles may entice potential buyers to only look at safety ratings, but that isn’t always the best indicator of how a vehicle will perform.

Even drivers who are not choosing an award-winning model can choose a vehicle that is less expensive to insure.

In addition to insurance costs and safety ratings, drivers should also consider the fuel mileage, the space inside the vehicle and its ability to perform in different conditions. Comparison shop with our free quote tool below now! 

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