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

The Nissan Rogue was awarded top marks by the IIHS while the Ford Escape didn't make the list. Additional safety features can reduce your 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: Oct 21, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Nissan has been a top-selling brand in the crossover segment of the market for the past year
  • The Nissan Rogue is the brand’s best-selling small SUV and it was initially released in 2008
  • The Rogue struggled in IIHS safety tests until 2014 when a safer redesign was implemented
  • The 2017 Nissan Rogue earned ‘Good’ front crash and roof strength ratings and a ‘Superior’ crash avoidance rating
  • Nissan’s small SUV earned a Top Safety Pick+ award and Ford’s small SUV did not qualify

Nissan has been doing business in the small SUV segment of the automotive market since 2008 when the Rogue was introduced into the marketplace. This is right around the time where gas prices reached their peak.

Due to the economy, more and more consumers were shopping for smaller vehicles that could get more miles to the gallon. Steadily, the Nissan Rogue became one of the top-selling vehicles in the US.

While the Nissan Rogue has always been an affordable alternative to other small SUV’s, it hasn’t always been the safest model.

In fact, the Rogues manufactured between 2008 and 2013 earned less than satisfactory scores when they were tested for safety.

Now, manufacturing methods and designs have improved. If you’d like to determine if small SUVs from Nissan are safer than those from Ford, here’s what you should know:

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Understanding IIHS Safety Ratings

IIHS is the most well-known organization in charge of testing vehicles for safety. This non-profit organization spends billions each year conducting research and performing tests on vehicles after they come off the production line each year.

The purpose is to help manufacturers identify designs that can be safer and to help consumers make the best decisions when car shopping.

Initially, in 1995 when the IIHS first created the safety rating system, vehicles were only tested to see how the structure of the driver-side front overlap performed.

Now, multiple tests have been developed to determine how likely all occupants are to be injured in an accident.

Here’s a list of both crash and crash mitigation tests that are performed now in 2017:

  • Small overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Front crash prevention
  • Headlights
  • Child seat anchors (LATCH)

Grading systems haven’t changed much since the rating system was developed. Crash test dummies that are equipped with kinematics will be used to measure the force to a person in an accident.

Then, each area that’s tested is given a grade. The grades are below(ratings for front crash prevention are based on a different scale).

If you’re comparing safety ratings of Nissan versus Ford, keep in mind the following are in order from best to worst:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Frontal Crash Prevention and Avoidance – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

Safety Ratings for the 2017 Nissan Rogue

  • Small overlap front crash – Good
  • Moderate overlap front crash – Good
  • Roof strength Good
  • Side Good
  • Head restraints & seats Good
  • Front Crash Prevention Superior(with optional equipment)
  • Headlight Evaluation Acceptable (only on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use Marginal

The 2017 Nissan Rogue is trending to be the best-selling model year yet. As more people gravitate to the 5-seater compact SUV, focus have obviously been placed on redesigning the safety records of the model.

In the past, the model earned just ‘Acceptable’ grades in front crash tests. Now, the 2017 model is earning the top ‘Good’ grade in Front, Side, Roof, and Head Restraint tests.

In addition to improving crash test scores, Nissan has improved its optional Forward Emergency Braking system to earn better ratings in Front Crash Prevention.

Unlike many small SUVs tested by IIHS, the Nissan Rogue earned 6 points out of 6 possible points in forward collision warnings, low-speed autobrake, and high-speed auto brake when consumers buy the Premium Trim or SL Packages.


Safety Ratings for the 2017 Ford Escape

  • Small overlap front crash – Acceptable
  • Moderate overlap front crash Good
  • Roof strength Good
  • Side Good
  • Head restraints & seats Good
  • Front Crash Prevention Basic(with optional equipment)
  • Headlight Evaluation Acceptable (with optional equipment)
  • Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use Marginal

You always need to compare two small SUVs that have similar features when you’re looking for the safer model. In this scenario, it’s best to compare the 2017 Ford Escape to the Rogue.

Unfortunately for Ford, the Escape didn’t perform nearly as well as Nissan’s compact crossover.

While ratings have improved since 1991, when the Escape was earning ‘Marginal’ and ‘Poor’ ratings, the 2017 Ford Escape didn’t earn ‘Good’ ratings all around.

In driver-side front crash tests, the newest model year earned only an ‘Acceptable’ score. Each other area tested performed well.

Front Crash Prevention systems can help drivers avoid serious accidents. Since the Escape is a value-priced model, it’s not equipped with all of the safety features.

When equipped with optional Forward Collision Warning and Brake Support, the 2017 Escape earned a ‘Basic’ score of 1 out of 6 points. Not even close to the 6 out of 6 earned by the Rogue.

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Top Safety Pick+

The 2017 Nissan Rogue is a Top Safety Pick+. To earn this designation, the model must earn ‘Good’ ratings in all crash tests.

The model must also earn at least an ‘Advanced’ score in crash mitigation when equipped, and an ‘Acceptable’ rating for headlight performance on the same trim level. The Ford Escape did not win any safety awards in 2017.

Are small SUVs manufactured by Nissan safer than small SUVs manufactured by Ford?

The only way to tell if Nissan’s small SUV’s are safer than Ford’s is to look at similar models.

When you compare the 2017 Nissan Rogue and the 2017 Ford Escape, it’s easy to see that Nissan’s model wins. The brand has shown its commitment to improving safety.

You should always compare pricing, safety ratings, and insurance premiums when you’re shopping for a new compact SUV.

To get auto insurance quotes quickly, use an online rate comparison tool and enter each vehicle’s information. This can help you pinpoint how much more it will cost you to buy a car with less than acceptable safety ratings.

Use our FREE quote tool to compare auto insurance rates today!

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