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

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Things to remember...
  • New vehicles are assessed through a variety of safety tests by the IIHS
  • Vehicles are given grades according to how they perform in these tests
  • Different categories are tested including crashworthiness and carseat safety

There is so much information out there when it’s time to decide on a new car. It’s hard to know where to focus your attention.

One main concern for most car buyers is safety.

The IIHS and HLDI, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, perform tests on vehicles each year to assess how safe they really are.

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Tests

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The IIHS and HLDI use six tests to determine a vehicle’s crashworthiness, that is, can it avoid or decrease the impact of a collision in real life situations.

The crashworthiness tests include small overlap collision on both the driver side and passenger side, a moderate overlap collision, side impact safety, roof strength, and the safety of seats and head restraints.

Safety tests also include a test for front crash prevention, headlights, and LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children).

Vehicles are given one of four ratings for each test. The best rating is good, followed by Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. Each test has benchmarks.

Whether the vehicle meets those benchmarks determines the car’s rating.

— Crashworthiness

The Nissan Rogue and the Buick Encore are both small SUVs. Both of these 2017 models performed well on tests for crashworthiness.

The Nissan Rogue was tested on five of the six tests for crashworthiness and received the highest rating of Good on all five. Passenger-side small overlap front impact test was not performed.

The Buick Encore scored Good on five out of six crashworthiness tests. On the passenger-side small overlap test, it scored Acceptable, which is one rating lower than Good.

The structure and safety cage allowed some intrusion, by a measure of 13 cm at the lower hinge pillar and 12 cm at the dashboard hinge pillar.

Another deduction for the Encore in this test was taken because after the crash dummy’s head contacted the airbag it began to roll to the right.

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— Avoidance and Mitigation

New since 2013, the Front Crash Prevention Test is where a clear winner emerges between these two models. The test checks performance in braking and avoiding front-to-rear collisions.

Ratings are determined by whether or not a vehicle has autobrake systems.

The Nissan Rogue achieved a Superior rating, meaning that the autobrake system either helped avoid a crash or substantially reduced the speed before impact.

Using the Platinum-trim model of the Rogue, the collision was avoided on a test where the vehicle was traveling 12 mph. In the test where the vehicle was traveling 25 mph, speed was reduced to 2 mph before impact.

The Buick Encore scored Basic in the same collision avoidance test. To score Basic, a vehicle must meet the standards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it does not offer a collision warning system.

— Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

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Finally, the vehicles are examined for the effectiveness of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. Car seats are effective when they are properly installed.

Objective measures are used to determine if the LATCH system makes it easy for parents to properly install a child seat.

The Nissan Rogue scored a Marginal rating for this test. For a rating of Good, the lower anchors must be less than ¾ of an inch in the bight of the seat and must be easy to maneuver around.

The Rogue missed both of those benchmarks.

For a rating of Good, the tether anchors, the anchors that hold the top of the seat in place, must be easy to find, located in the top 85 percent of the seat, and easy to maneuver.

The Rogue missed these benchmarks. The tether was found to be too deep in the seat, hard to find, and difficult to maneuver around.

The Buick Encore scored a rating of Acceptable for the LATCH system, one rating below the best rating of Good. The examination found that the tether anchor could be confused with other hardware and the lower anchors were too deep within the seat.

Top Safety Pick

The 2017 Nissan Rogue is a Top Safety Pick+. A rating of Good in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests are required to be awarded this designation.

The distinction also requires that a vehicle receive an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention. The Rogue received a Superior rating on this test as described above.

The Nissan Rogue has a higher safety rating than the Encore. Both vehicles perform well when a crash takes place, but the Rogue is more likely to avoid a crash altogether because it’s equipped with an autobrake system.

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