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

Subaru and Fiat both received top safety marks from the IIHS in 2017, but Subaru won overall. Safety features can lower 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...

  • Although compact SUVs suffer in some areas due to their decreased size, they carry advantages of their own due to increased gas mileage and overall lower costs
  • As with all kinds of automobile, the safety rating is dependent not on the vehicle’s size but on the work put into it by the manufacturer
  • These safety ratings are calculated using a combination of data from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and scientific study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety selects the safest vehicles on the road and assigns them with either the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+, both of which require high marks in all areas

When you’re shopping for a new car, for the family or just for yourself, there are many different factors that should be considered.

Often, compact SUVs are considered to be a lesser form of more expensive midsized SUVs, and their size is seen as a vulnerability that makes them less safe in the case of a direct collision.

That said, compact SUVs do pull ahead in many areas over midsized SUVs, boasting higher gas mileage and decreased emissions as well as increased maneuverability.

It’s important to remember that the safety of a vehicle isn’t necessarily dependent on size more often, it’s dependent on the extent of the manufacturer’s optimization that year.

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The Faces of Safety Testing

When it comes to the automotive industry, the majority of safety testing is undertaken by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

This nonprofit organization strives to reduce the number of casualties on America’s roadways – supplemented with data and statistics gathered by the Highway Loss Data Institute, they’ve been endorsed by automobile manufacturers and insurance advisory groups alike.

The IIHS is first and foremost a legitimate scientific organization, and they use a modernized variant of the scientific method to test each vehicle individually.

Types of Testing

Their testing is split into a variety of areas including human factors, environmental factors, and vehicle research itself.

  • Human factors focus on simplification of systems for inexperienced or distracted drivers, additionally addressing issues of road fatigue, use of drinking or drugs while behind the wheel, and the usage of safety belts.
  • Environmental factors analyze the designs of the roads themselves, namely in reducing roadside hazards and making sure road signs are clearly visible.
  • Vehicle research is the most testing intensive section, focusing on each vehicle’s ability to withstand or avoid a crash.

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Subaru vs. Fiat

When it comes to 2017’s safety ratings in small and compact SUVs, Subaru’s Forester faces off against Fiat’s 500x.

These vehicle’s safety ratings are placed on a scale ranging from Good to Acceptable to Marginal and finally Poor, with Good as the highest possible mark a vehicle could achieve in a given area.

Secondarily, the area of crash prevention utilizes Basic, Advanced, and Superior as a separate rating system.


Test Results

To evaluate crashworthiness, which is defined as the vehicle’s ability to withstand a direct collision, the compact SUVs are subjected to direct crash testing. This consists of colliding the vehicle with various barriers at 40 miles per hour and evaluating the damage. Subaru’s Forester pulled slightly ahead over Fiat’s 500x here.

Although most areas of crashworthiness are placed at Good for both vehicles, they both face problems when it comes to impacts with the passenger side of the vehicle.

For the Subaru Forester, the rating in this area is Marginal. The Fiat, meanwhile, lacks safety ratings for this section.

In the area of crash avoidance and mitigation, which is defined as the vehicle’s ability to avoid a collision through braking or maneuverability, the SUVs were tested by a combination of autobraking tests and evaluation of each vehicle’s headlights.

Once again, the Subaru Forester stands tall over the Fiat 500x, by a wider margin this time. The Forester’s avoidance rating is Superior and their headlight rating Acceptable, the Fiat has an Advanced avoidance rating and a Poor headlight rating.

When it came to testing LATCH features, which generally involves checking the ease of use when installing a child seat into the vehicle, the Forester won a final victory over the 500x, achieving an Acceptable rating over the 500x’s Marginal.

Top Safety Picks for 2017

When the testing is finished, the IIHS uses its accumulated data to select the safest vehicles on the road.

These vehicles are honored with the Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards, which require Good ratings in every area of crashworthiness and an Advanced or higher rating in crash avoidance.

For the additional Pick+, the vehicle’s headlight rating must also be Acceptable or Good.

The Subaru Forester received the Top Safety Pick+ for 2017, while the Fiat 500x received only the normal Top Safety Pick. This means that while both vehicles are very safe, the Forester has the final advantage.

Subaru Dominates Fiat

In 2017, the Subaru Forester scored higher ratings in every category than the Fiat 500x.

In large part, this is based on a wider level of attention to detail on the part of Subaru, as the 500x failed in smaller sections while maintaining high standards everywhere else.

Overall, while both vehicles are considered very safe, the Subaru Forester takes the final advantage with its Top Safety Pick+. Use our FREE comparison tool to find auto insurance rates today!

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