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

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Things to remember...
  • Both the Subaru Forester and Nissan Rogue have earned high safety ratings from the IIHS
  • Small differences between the two exist in their LATCH evaluation and frontal crash performance
  • Both vehicles are excellent choices if consumers are concerned about safety ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts safety tests for vehicles in real-life situations.

They simulate the events that would take place in an accident and assess the results, both what happens to the driver and passenger and how the structure of the car holds up to impacts.

The IIHS is a nonprofit organization that focuses their efforts on preventing the number of losses incurred from vehicle crashes.

Crash tests that the IIHS conducts are completely independent, and they provide detailed information to the public for many popular makes and models.

In the small SUV category, Subaru offers up the Forester, while Nissan’s small SUV is the Rogue. Both vehicles have excellent safety ratings but differ slightly in some details.

The latest data available from the IIHS is for the 2018 Forester, which actually had identical ratings in 2017, and the 2017 model year of the Rogue.

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Crashworthiness

The first category assessed for both vehicles is crashworthiness. The IIHS defines six crashworthiness factors, which are individually evaluated and cover all major areas of the vehicle:

  • Small overlap front
  • Driver & Passenger are evaluated and rated individually
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof Strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Crashworthiness Ratings

Each individual crashworthiness factor is given a rating of good, acceptable, marginal or poor. The 2018 Subaru Forester earned “good” ratings for all crashworthiness factors except for the passenger-side small overlap front area.

During the crash test, it was found that the passenger’s space was compromised severely by the intruding structure, and it also found that injury or damage to the passenger’s lower leg would be possible.

The 2017 Nissan Rogue, on the other hand, earned “good ratings” as well except for the passenger-side small overlap front area, which was not evaluated in the crash test for this model.

The IIHS instituted the passenger-side small overlap frontal test very recently this year, so it’s possible that when the 2017 Rogue was evaluated, they hadn’t yet begun to perform crash tests for that area.

The IIHS added the passenger-side small overlap frontal test in 2017 when it was realized that although vehicle manufacturers had made vast improvements to the driver’s side area in terms of improving structures and adding airbags, those same changes weren’t necessarily carrying over to the passenger’s side.

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

This is the second safety area that the IIHS evaluates in its tests, and the crash avoidance test measures how effectively the vehicle will be able to stop in the event of an imminent collision.

Success in this category depends upon the addition of optional equipment and driver assistance features. The most points a vehicle can earn in this category is six.

  • 1 point – For having a Forward Collision Warning feature
  • 2 points – For success in the low-speed auto brake test
  • 3 points – For success in the high-speed auto brake test

The Subaru Forester and the Nissan Rogue both performed well. They each earned six points, for a “superior” overall rating for the category.

The Rogue is equipped with a forward collision warning feature, which audibly and visually alerts the driver when a collision is imminent and applies the brakes automatically. It avoided a collision in a low-speed 12mph test, and in the high-speed 25mph test, impact speed was reduced by 23mph.

The Forester also has forward collision warning, avoided a collision at 12mph to succeed in the low-speed test, and it also completely avoided a collision in the high-speed test as well at 25mph.

This is one difference between the models — where the Rogue only reduced the speed of the collision by 23mph, the collision still occurs.

With the Forester, the collision in the high-speed test was completely avoided.

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LATCH Evaluation

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It’s a system of attachment hardware for child restraints that allow parents to install car seats in their backseat without having to use a seatbelt.

The LATCH system simplifies the correct installation of a child’s car seat.

The IIHS evaluates each vehicle’s LATCH system based on whether individual tethers are easy to find, how hard it is to install a car seat, the clearance angle, and whether or not the LATCH hardware could be confused for other vehicle hardware.

The Subaru Forester earned an “acceptable” rating for all three seating positions in the backseat, slightly better than the Rogue.

Not much force is needed to attach a car seat, the anchor points are easy to find, and no other seat hardware could be confused for it. It earned acceptable instead of good because the lower anchors for seat positions 1 and 3 were situated “too deep in the seat” according to the IIHS evaluation.

The Nissan Rogue received a “marginal” rating for its LATCH system. The evaluators determined that the lower anchors for seating positions 1 and 3 were too difficult to maneuver around and were situated too deep in the seat.

It was also determined that the tether anchor for seating position 2 was in a hard-to-find location.

Awards

Both vehicles have earned the Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, which requires three things:

  • A good rating for crashworthiness factors (interestingly, the passenger-side front-overlap is not included in this award criteria)
  • A superior or advanced rating for front crash prevention
  • An acceptable or good headlight rating

Both of these vehicles meet those criteria, so they are very safe vehicles overall.

The Forester has been a Top Safety Pick+ since 2014, and the Rogue hasn’t earned the Top Safety Pick+ award since 2014. 2015 and 2016, it earned only the Top Safety Pick award (without the Plus component).

Is Subaru safer than Nissan for small SUVs?

It seems to be a matter of opinion and up to the individual consumer. Both vehicles have merit and are very safe individually, and the choice may come down to a matter of personal preference.

They’ve both earned great safety ratings, with small differences in the LATCH system and the forward collision auto brake test.

Whichever vehicle the consumer decides to buy, it’s definitely going to be safe.

It’s also important to factor in the insurance costs for each vehicle when deciding which one to buy, as that helps put the overall cost of the car into perspective.

Higher insurance rates may mean a more expensive car overall, but it may be worth it if the trade-off is much higher safety ratings in case an accident occurs.

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