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

The Subaru Forester and the BMW X1 received top safety awards from the IIHS in recent tests. Auto insurance for a normal SUV averages around $125/mo.

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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: Nov 9, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The Subaru Forester won the Top Safety Pick+ award, but the BMW X1 only won the Top Safety Pick award
  • Both vehicles won IIHS awards which will make them less expensive to insure
  • Safety of a vehicle can make a difference for peace of mind while driving, but that isn’t the only thing people need to focus on

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, uses the most advanced vehicle testing procedures to determine how safe a car will be on the road.

They are committed to making the vehicle ratings as accurate as possible so consumers and manufacturers can use the information to help them have better car experience.

The IIHS also strives to make sure their test as close to realistic as possible so others will have an accurate idea of how the car will be able to perform if it is in an accident. No matter which vehicle you choose, make sure to compare rates with our free quote tool above! 

Ways Cars are Ranked

Since the IIHS needs to keep things as standardized as possible, they use the same ranking system for all the cars they test. They use the ranking system of

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor

to help people determine how the car did on each of the tests. The IIHS has chosen to use this system to determine the crashworthiness of the vehicle, how the headlights compare to their standards and the efficacy of the LATCH system.

In addition to their traditional rating system, the IIHS uses a different system for crash avoidance features. A vehicle that has only a warning system will receive a basic score for crash avoidance.

One that has the auto brake feature that reduces the speed considerably will receive an advanced warning, and a vehicle that has an auto-brake system that is capable of completely stopping the vehicle will receive a superior rating for the vehicle’s crash avoidance.


Crashworthiness of BMW X1 and Subaru Forester

The BMW X1 and the Subaru Forester received ratings of Good for the moderate overlap front, the restrains, the roof strength and the sides. They were put through the crash courses the IIHS has.

The vehicles were able to not only survive the crashes that were on the test but also were able to protect the passengers who were in the vehicles. For the small overlap front, many small SUVs struggle during the crash test.

Either the IIHS is unable to collect data for that type of collision because of the way the SUV is made or the vehicles do not score well because they are unable to survive the crash.

The BMW X1 received no score for the small overlap front test, but the Subaru Forester received a score of Marginal for the same test.

How BMW X1 and Subaru Forester Avoided Collisions

The auto brake features for the Subaru Forester and the BMW X1 were not standard in the vehicles so the systems were only tested with optional equipment.

The Forester’s auto brake system was superior because it stopped a front end collision going 12 miles per hour and 25 miles per hour.

The BMW X1’s rating was only advanced because it did not stop during the 25 miles per hour test, but was able to reduce the speed.

Both of the vehicles had front collision warning systems that functioned. The BMW X1’s headlights only received a Marginal because they did not reach as far as the IIHS recommends and they had a lot of glare when the high beams were on. The Subaru Forester’s headlights received a score of Acceptable.

Child Safety in BMW X1 and Subaru Forester

The child safety system in both of the vehicles received the same score of A. The BMW’s LATCH system was too far into the seat to make it easy to reach.

The LATCH system in the Subaru Forester had one position where it was close to other equipment making it possible for the user to mistake the other equipment for the position where the LATCH was supposed to attach to the seat.

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A Safer Car With an Award


Since both of the vehicles received an award from the IIHS, they are safer than most of the other small SUVs in their class.

The Subaru Forester is a safer vehicle than the BMW X1 because it won the Top Safety Pick+, but the BMW X1 only won the Top Safety Pick award. Since the BMW had missing information for the one crashworthiness test, it was ineligible for the Top Safety Pick+ award.

Choosing the Best Vehicle

A vehicle can be the right choice for many reasons. Safety isn’t the only thing people should consider while shopping for a car. By looking at safety, availability and cost, drivers can be sure they are making the right decision for a vehicle that will work with their lifestyle.

If a driver only considers the safety of the vehicle, they may end up paying less in car insurance but may pay more money with the overall cost of the car.

Drivers who don’t take their time shopping around for the right vehicle may find they are stuck with something they don’t like just because the IIHS said it was the safest choice in the class of vehicle they wanted. Compare rates with our free quote tool below! Just enter your zip code and start comparing rates now!

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