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

Both Toyota's and BMW's small SUVs received top safety honors from the IIHS, but the RAV 4 was rated slightly higher, making it the safer car.

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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...

  • SUVs continue to dominate the market for cars that are satisfying both functional and psychological needs
  • The Insurance Institue for Highway Safety is a company that serves as a regulatory body for vehicle testing
  • Toyota RAV4 is the latest in this line and it has been tested as one of the best vehicles on the market
  • BMW X1 is somewhat a luxurious model that possesses many qualities that regular vehicles will not even know about

A growing demand for Sport Utility Vehicles over the past decades has turned these cars into the most convenient method of transportation for a lot of people.

The size and power come off as the main selling points, which both provide the buyer with a vehicle that has the best of both worlds.

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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

To ensure that every SUV is market-ready, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) will expose all their weaknesses and glorify their strengths.

The company is financed by insurance providers and runs as a non-profit entity. The service they provide ranges with many fields of testing where vehicles’ safety is checked.

Some of the common areas that the report written by the IIHS will address are crashworthiness, crash prevention, and child seat anchors.

Through these, one can base their decision on actual scientific research and data, rather than basic impressions they personally have.

Crashworthiness is broken down into the following five categories:

  • Small Driver and Passenger Overlap Test
  • Moderate Overlap Test
  • Roof’s Strength-to-Weight Ratio
  • Side Impact
  • Head and Neck Restraints

Every vehicle will be hit from many directions and with varying speed of impact, and the ultimate goal is to see how large the intrusion is, what the danger of injury is, and so on. The grades can be good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Crash prevention has the opposite objective when compared to crashworthiness, as its goal is to not see an accident happen. Here, the cars will be evaluated while going 12 and 25 miles per hour.

The manufacturer has to implement systems that will auto-brake when there is a threat detected.

Grades differ slightly as the rating will be based on six potential points. The actual word scores are superior, advanced, and basic.

Child anchors get extra attention through a simple observatory process that will assess their abilities to host children seats. Since SUVs are purchased by millions of families, having the ability to drive an infant comes as a rather important factor.

The test is very simple without any invasion to the vehicle, other than many people looking at the latches. The grades are the same as in crashworthiness.


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Toyota RAV4 Versus BMW X1

Speaking of SUVs is almost impossible without bringing in the Japanese giant, Toyota, and looking through the models that a German manufacturer BMW has.


The latest of RAV4 line for Toyota has been increased with a creation of 2018 model. Besides a modernized design and efficiency, this model scored so well with the Institute’s tests that it won the Top Safety Pick Plus award, discussed later.

BMW X1 showed great potential with five good scores in crashworthiness. The only missing rating was the passenger small overlap test since the company just implemented this sub-category a few weeks ago.

Toyota did get their passenger crashworthiness tested and since the producer had not time to change this, they were given a poor score. All the other grades were tied.

The survival space was maintained well for each model and roof strength-to-weight ratio was around five. This means that the power of the cabin was very well addressed by both brands that probably helped save thousands of buyers form an accident.

Crash Prevention & Mitigation

RAV4 continued its perfect scoring with a superior rating for crash prevention. BMW only won 4/6 points which were mostly lost in the 25-mph test.

Both vehicles slowed down notably during the 12-mph test and major collisions were avoided successfully. The BMW, however, had a lot of room for improvement as the speed reduction achieved in the 25-mph test was only seven miles per hour.

Another element of the crash prevention test is the headlight review. Toyota won an acceptable rating that overpowered BMW’s marginal showing that lacked the necessary effort.

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

Lastly, Toyota RAV4 won another very high recognition that is a good score for the LATCH category. This means that the placing of the anchor was perfect and child seats would not require additional force, extra search, or any other circumstance to delay the connection.

BMW, however, only won a marginal title as its LATCH was difficult to maneuver around. Therefore, this is another category where the German brand came short to compete with the Japanese masterminds of production.

2017 Top Safety Pick and/or 2017 Top Safety Pick+

Those vehicles that perform substantially will be awarded. In order to qualify for the Top Safety Pick award, one must have good crashworthiness scores and an advanced or superior crash prevention result.

The Top Safety Pick Plus award also requires headlights to be acceptable or good.

Given the requirements, Toyota RAV 4 won the plus recognition, while the BMW only got a Top Safety Pick.

This is still very impressive as there are many vehicles that come shortly to both of the awards.

The ultimate winner is Toyota Rav 4, for multiple reasons that include a better crash prevention, headlights, and child anchors ratings than those of BMW X1. The crashworthiness was tied, but this was not enough to bring the BMW back in the race.

Once a person buys either one of these cars, they will need to obtain an insurance policy that is illegal to drive without. One can look over quotes, coverages, deductibles, premiums, and so on.

Ultimately, the goal is to make an educated decision that will account for all the data available! Enter your zip code into our free car insurance comparison tool below to see several quotes side-by-side quickly and easily.

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