Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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 Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 22, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • The Nissan Rogue is classified as a small SUV and it earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ in 2017
  • The 2017 Nissan Rogue received ‘Good’ scores in crashworthiness and ‘Superior’ ratings in crash avoidance
  • The 2017 Kia Sportage is also a small SUV that competes against the Rogue in sales
  • If you compare the same model years, the 2017 Nissan Rogue is considered a safer small SUV than the Kia Sportage


The Small SUV class didn’t become extremely popular until gas prices started to rise in the early 2000’s. While there were compact Sport Utility Vehicles to choose from on the market, consumers who wanted room didn’t really gravitate to the more compact SUVs until fueling the larger options became a huge expense.

While gas prices have risen and fallen many times since the class grew in popularity, the demand for the class has only continued to rise.

In fact, sales trends for SUVs are rising even as the trends for sedans continue to fall. As SUV’s in this class continue to become safer vessels for families, sales for vehicles in this class continue to be profitable.

Two popular makes that are selling reliable small SUVs are Nissan and Kia. If you’re comparing the specifications of each make before you test drive them, don’t forget to look into safety ratings. Make sure to use our free quote tool above today! 

While ratings have improved, small SUVs didn’t always perform well in crash tests. If you’re curious to see how Nissan safety ratings match up to Kia’s, here’s what you should know:

Understanding IIHS Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was founded back in 1959. The purpose of the educational group was to support highway efforts that were put in place to reduce crashes and minimize injuries.

This is why the IIHS conducts research and helps test the performance of vehicles in crash tests. Numerous different tests are performed by the non-profit in its own Vehicle Research Center.

The VRC was opened in 1992 and since then has developed tests and equipment needed to truly measure how a vehicle performs in a crash.  While only frontal crash tests were initially performed, a host of tests are conducted now.

These include:

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

The VRC first tested cars in an effort to push automakers to develop and produce safer vehicles. For the first three years, this is all the organization did.

After 1995, a rating system was developed specifically for helping consumers buy safer brands.  This rating system can help you determine if Nissan or Kia produces the safer small SUV.

All vehicles are tested and received one of the ratings below:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Front Crash Prevention Ratings – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

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Safety Ratings for the 2017 Nissan Rogue

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

The 2017 Nissan Rogue is a Top Safety Pick+ primarily because it earned all ‘Good’ marks in crash tests and a ‘Superior’ 6 out of 6 in Front Crash Prevention because of the high-speed auto brake when equipped with optional Forward Emergency Braking.

The small Nissan SUV did not always perform well. It took until 2014 for the Rogue to even earn a ‘Good’ in front crash tests. Since then, the automaker has manufactured a safe, award-winning car.

Unfortunately, the newest Rogue has still only earned a ‘Marginal’ rating for the tethers of the child seat latch system and an acceptable headlight rating.

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Safety Ratings for the 2017 Kia Sportage

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

The 2017 Kia Sportage is classified as a safe vehicle but only earned the lower-level Top Safety Pick award. Like the Rogue, the Sportage earned all ‘Good’ ratings in crash tests and a ‘Superior’ rating in crash avoidance with the optional Autonomous Emergency Braking system.

These scores show designs have gotten substantially better since the 2016 model received ‘Poor’ ratings. The only area where the Sportage still performance poorly is in headlight performance. The primary reason for the ‘Poor’ rating was because the headlights are not curve-adaptive making visibility is poor around curves.

2017 Top Safety Pick+

Only vehicles that have earned ‘Good’ ratings in front crash tests and no less than an ‘Advanced’ rating in crash avoidance are eligible for a safety award.

If the model earns a headlight of ‘Acceptable’ or better, the vehicle will be eligible as a Top Safety Pick+. This is how the 2017 Nissan Rogue received the top award.

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Is Nissan safer than Kia for small SUVs?

If you’re comparing Nissan’s 2017 small SUV to Kia’s model produced the same year, Nissan makes the safer small SUV. The Rogue has impressed with great safety test performance. The Kia has also improved but did not manage to earn a Top Safety Pick+ award in 2017.

If you’re shopping for a new compact SUV or crossover, it’s crucial that you shop around for insurance first. The safety rating of your vehicle can dramatically affect your insurance rates.

Use our free online rate comparison tool to price the cost of coverage for each car and use this information as you bargain shop.