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

When comparing small SUVs and safety, the Subaru Forester, which received a Top Safety Pick+ award, seems much safer than the Volkswagen Tiguan.

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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 1, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The 2018 Subaru Forester received higher safety ratings overall in crashworthiness and crash avoidance over the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan
  • Both vehicles earned identical ratings in the LATCH evaluation
  • It’s important to compare insurance costs of each vehicle as well when considering their accident performance, as it helps to put the overall cost of the car into perspective

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit organization that conducts independent crash tests for vehicles.

They simulate the events that would take place during a real-life car accident and assess the results. They evaluate what would happen to the driver and passenger, as well as how the overall structure of the vehicle holds up to a strong impact.

They test these factors at various speeds using different simulated scenarios.

In the small SUV category for Subaru and Volkswagen, the 2017 and 2018 the Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan models were evaluated. Small SUVs are a great choice for single drivers and families alike.

There are many reasons to consider upgrading from a car to an SUV.

  • They tend to perform better in inclement weather
  • Higher ride position for a better view of the road
  • Smaller SUVs have the crisp handling of a smaller car for easy maneuverability
  • Roomy interiors with lots of space for drivers and passengers
  • Ample cargo room for storing groceries, luggage, and personal items

All of the advantages of an SUV still aren’t enough reason to buy without first investigating the safety ratings for the particular vehicle you’re interested in.

Compare car insurance quotes today to find the best rate for the coverage and vehicle you want. Enter your zip code above to get started.

Subaru vs. Volkswagen Crashworthiness Ratings

The first category the IIHS assesses is crashworthiness, which can be sorted into six factors. The IIHS evaluates each one individually in a series of crash tests. Each factor applies to a different area of the vehicle. The six categories are:

  • Small overlap front
  • Driver & Passenger sides are rated individually
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints and seats

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

During the crash test, it was found that the passenger’s area was compromised significantly during the crash test as a result of intrusion from the vehicle structure. For this reason, the Forester earned a “marginal” rating for this specific category.

The same test performed on the driver’s side earned a “good” rating.

The Volkswagen Tiguan, on the other hand, did not fare as well in their crash test.

For the small overlap frontal category, it assesses the drivers and passenger’s side individually, as mentioned above.

The Tiguan earned a marginal rating for the driver’s side test, and the passenger side was not evaluated. It was found that the driver’s overall space was not maintained well, as the car’s structure intrudes severely on their space.

Injury measures indicated that the driver’s left hip would be injured in a crash of this severity, while the risk of injury to other body parts was low.

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Subaru vs. Volkswagen Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Because head-on frontal collisions usually result in multiple fatalities in a car accident, the IIHS takes time to evaluate how well a car would be able to avoid a frontal collision.

Modern cars are frequently equipped (either standard or through available options) with frontal crash avoidance technology.

The exact way crash avoidance operates varies among manufacturers, but in general, the technology prevents the car from colliding with a vehicle in front of them if the driver can not stop the car fast enough. The most points a vehicle can earn in this category is six.

  • One point is earned by having a forward collision warning safety feature
  • Two points for success in the low-speed auto brake test
  • Three points for success in the high-speed auto brake test

In this category, the Subaru Forester performed much better than the Tiguan. The Forester earned six points for crash avoidance, while the Tiguan earned zero points.

This type of forward-collision avoidance safety equipment is not available on the Tiguan, so it earned no points for the category.

In the Forester’s test, it avoided collisions successfully at low (12mph) and high (25mph) speeds for five points, and then earned one point for having a forward collision warning safety feature.

This is the primary difference between these two models – the Forester earned a “superior” rating for crash avoidance, while the Tiguan earned no points.


Subaru vs. Volkswagen LATCH Evaluation

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It’s a system of attachment hardware for child seats that lets parents place car seats on the rear seat and secure them there without having to use a seatbelt.

Of course, a seatbelt can always be used, but the LATCH system is meant to be easier for parents to use and more secure for child passengers.

The Tiguan received an “acceptable” rating for their LATCH system. Both the tether anchors and lower anchors didn’t require much force to attach, were easy to maneuver and the tether anchors, in particular, were in an easy-to-find location.

The one drawback is that the lower anchors are situated too deep in the seat, according to the evaluation.

In addition, only seat positions one and three (both next to each window) have the full LATCH system. In seat position two, the tether anchor is only available, and lower anchors are not available.

The Forester also received an “acceptable” rating, falling short of the “good” because the lower anchors for seats one and three were found to be too deep in the seat, just like the Tiguan.

One difference is that for seat position two (in the middle), the lower anchors can be borrowed from seat positions one and three, but the same cannot be said for the Tiguan.

Subaru vs. Volkswagen Safety Awards

The Forester earned the Top Safety Pick+ award for 2017 because it met the following criteria: good ratings for five crashworthiness factors, a superior or advanced rating for crash avoidance, and an acceptable or good headlight rating.

The Tiguan did not receive any awards for the 2017 model. Interestingly, for 2018, the vehicle has been redesigned by Volkswagen, so it’s now classified as a midsize SUV. It will be interesting to see if their safety ratings improve with a larger overall vehicle.

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Is Subaru safer than Volkswagen for small SUVs?

When evaluating ratings alone from the IIHS, it does seem that the Forester is much safer than the Tiguan.

While the Tiguan did earn high ratings for crashworthiness, making it a safe vehicle, it does not have the advanced safety features that give the Forester its higher rating overall and qualification for the Top Safety Pick+ award.

It’s important also to compare insurance costs among car models, as rates will differ depending on the type of vehicle it is, and it helps to put the true cost of the car into perspective. Enter your zip code below to compare today!

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