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

The IIHS named the Nissan Rogue a top safety pick in 2017, while the Volkswagen Tiguan didn't measure up. Safety measures 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 28, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The Nissan Rogue is a Tops Safety Pick Plus award-winner, but it didn’t test well in the child latch category
  • The Volkswagen Tiguan was not tested for its front crash prevention abilities
  • The Nissan Rogue scores high in almost all safety categories, but the Nissan Rogue Sport is not as impressive in terms of safety

Are you in the market for a small SUV? If you are, you might consider the Nissan Rogue or the Volkswagen Tiguan appealing. They are both vehicles with affordable price tags and upgraded standard features you find more commonly in luxury vehicles.

Sitting inside either of these vehicles is now almost the same as sitting inside a luxury SUV in the same class. Gone are the days when non-luxury brands only offered luxury features as expensive upgrades.

Today it’s more common to find leather seats, Bluetooth, power outlets, and power accessories inside vehicles like the Nissan and the VW as standard features, and you still have the option to purchase additional luxury features.

This is called democratization of features, which is when something is no longer rare. Even two decades ago it was difficult to find a base model vehicle from Nissan or VW with leather and other upgrades. Today, it’s practically common.

Combine that with the low price on each of these small SUVs, and people are driving luxurious vehicles with a common brand name and loving it. Add the safety features that provide insurance discounts to the already long list of pros with these two SUVs, and you have winners.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Nissan and the VW for safety features, and the results are vastly different for each one.

Only one has a safety pick award from the IIHS which offers you the chance to earn insurance discounts just for driving a safe vehicle. If you’re torn between these two small SUVs, get to know what safety features are available and what they mean for you.

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Determining the Safety of a Small SUV

There are very specific rules in place by the IIHS regarding the safety ratings on small SUVs. There are specific categories in which each vehicle is tested, and each one has its own list of subcategories that all receive a letter grade.

These letter grades are handed out based on the overall performance of the SUV in that specific category during the crash testing procedures performed each year.

Crashworthiness contains five subcategories.

  • Small overlap front
  • Side strength
  • Roof strength
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Head restraints and seats

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation contains two subcategories, but only one of them is given a letter grade while the other is given a different rating.

  • Headlights
  • Front Crash Prevention

The front crash prevention is issued a grade that is not a letter grade. It’s going to earn a basic, advanced, or superior rating based on who well or the lack of how well it performed in helping drivers avoid a crash at the last moment.

The Child Seat Anchors category only has one subcategory called the latch category. The latch is found in the back seat where child car seats are used, and it’s only important to drivers who have kids of their own and want the best possible safety measures for kids.

The latch rating system is not based on how safe it keeps kids but rather how easy it is to use when buckling children.

The consensus is that the easier it is to use the safer kids will be due to the increased chance it was used correctly. It’s given a letter grade like many of the other categories. Letter grades are issued as follows:

  • “G” for good
  • “A” for acceptable
  • “M” for marginal
  • “P” for poor


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Nissan Rogue vs. Volkswagen Tiguan

Both are stylish small SUVs with upgraded features offered as standard, and both come with several different trims to choose from. They are priced similarly, they boat similar gas mileage, and both are similar in size.

However, only one is safety award-winning vehicle and the other doesn’t do well in most crash test categories.

Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award winner in 2017. It has “G” ratings in all the crashworthiness categories, an “A” rating for headlights, an “M” rating for the child latch, and a superior level rating for the front crash prevention.

This vehicle’s award-winning title earns it a great review, and it also helps you find cheaper car insurance.

The Sport version of the Rogue was only tested in the small overlap front, the moderate overlap front, and the side.

Without any other ratings, it’s impossible to know if it’s safe enough for any awards, though it did earn a “G” rating in all the categories in which it was rated.

Volkswagen Tiguan

While the Tiguan did not perform poorly, it did receive an “M” rating in the small overlap front driver side category.

The rest of the crashworthiness categories are “G” ratings, the headlights and the latch are both “A” ratings, and the front crash prevention was not tested.

This means it is not a safety pick winner, nor does it outdo the Nissan in terms of safety.

How does an SUV win an award for safety and why is this important?

The IIHS gives awards to all small SUVs and other vehicles that excel at safety tests.

To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must have an advanced or superior score in the front crash prevention as well as all “G” ratings in the crashworthiness category.

To earn a Top Safety Pick Plus award, the vehicle must also pull a rating of “A” or better for the headlights.

This is important because it means your family is safer in your vehicle. It’s also a simple way to receive great discounts on your insurance, though it’s certainly not the only way.

You can ask for discounts because you’re retired, because you have a great credit score, and even because you work from home or close to work and don’t commute. You have options, but you must know what they are if you want to save on car insurance.

Saving Money with Safety Ratings

Not all discounts are insurance-related, but some of the best ones are. Checking the warranty offered with each vehicle could save you a bundle if something happens to your new car.

Safety ratings come into play in terms of risk; the less damage you’re likely to sustain in an accident, the less you’ll have to pay for insurance.

You can also ask your insurance company to provide a discount if you add your home and life policies, bundle more than one car onto your policy, and if you’re a student with good grades.

Safety ratings are just one factor to consider when buying a new car, though.

Start figuring out how much you can save long-term with each potential model by comparing free quotes online today. Use our FREE quote tool to compare auto insurance rates today!

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