Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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 Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 23, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Toyota has topped the small SUV market in sales since the RAV4 was first introduced to the market in 1996
  • The Toyota RAV4 is on its third redesign and now boasts better gas mileage, ride comfort, and engine power
  • The 2017 Toyota RAV4 is a Top Safety Pick+ recipient and it received a perfect score in Front Crash Prevention
  • The 2017 Honda CR-V is also a Top Safety Pick+ recipient with perfect scores in Front Crash Prevention and Crashworthiness
  • Honda produces a safer small SUV if you look at each automaker’s complete crash rating report

Crossovers may look like small SUVs but they handle a lot like a private passenger car. Add in the fact that cars in the compact SUV category get gas mileage that mirrors efficient sedans, and you can see why small sport-utility vehicles are becoming so popular.

Toyota was one of the first companies to release a small SUV called the RAV4 in 1996. Honda followed just two years later with the release of the five-passenger CR-V in 1998.

Small SUVs offer a lot of advantages but you can never assume that you’re safe in one just by test driving it. To get a good idea of how a compact SUV performs in an accident, you’ll need to review crash ratings and unbiased consumer safety information.

Compare car insurance quotes using our free rate tool above to see how the car insurance costs vary between these two makes of SUV.

If you’re trying to determine if Toyota has better safety ratings than Honda on small SUVs, here’s what you should know:

Understanding Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts tests on all small SUVs. The purpose of the tests is to assess how likely it is for occupants in different areas of the vehicle to be injured in a crash.

This testing is done by taking the vehicle to the IIHS Vehicle Research Center and simulating a crash in the $30-billion crash hall.

Once the crash has been simulated, the scientists in charge of assessing the damage will remove the kinematics-installed dummies from the vehicle and measure the risk of injury based on their markings.

Ratings are assigned to all six areas tested in crashworthiness.

The vehicle will also undergo front crash prevention testing if it is equipped with this feature. Here’s a list of all of the IIHS safety tests performed:

  • Small overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Front crash prevention
  • Headlights
  • Child seat anchors (LATCH)

The information that is gathered in the evaluation can be used by both small SUV consumers who are trying to compare brands or by the automakers themselves to improve designs in the future.

It’s up to the manufacturer to produce safe cars but some issues aren’t as predictable as others.

As you’re comparing Toyota’s safety ratings to Honda’s, you’ll need to narrow your search. It’s easiest to look at each company’s most popular small SUVs. As you’re comparing the two, it’s helpful to look at the 2017 Toyota RAV4 and the 2017 Honda CR-V.

Here’s a list of ratings from best to worst:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Front Crash Prevention Ratings – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

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Safety Ratings for the 2017 Toyota RAV4

  • Small overlap front – Good
  • Moderate overlap front – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head restraints & seats – Good
  • Front Crash Prevention – Superior
  • Headlights – Acceptable (only on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors – Good

The Toyota RAV4 was the first of the ever-popular small SUVs to hit the market. While the vehicle initially only received “Marginal” scores upon its initial release, redesigned and much better focus on safety.

After receiving “Poor” ratings in 2014, Toyota revamped the small overlap front and received “Good” ratings in all areas tested except for passenger overlap front performance.

When it comes to Front Crash Prevention, the RAV4 exceeds expectations. Equipped with a standard Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, the RAV4 earns a six out of six for a “Superior” rating.

The headlight test shows the RAV4 also outperformed many small SUVs with an “Acceptable” rating. If you’re looking for a compact family car, it’s nice to know the RAV4 is one of the few cars that has earned a “Good” rating in child seat LATCH systems.

Safety Ratings for the 2017 Honda CR-V

  • Small overlap front – Good
  • Moderate overlap front – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head restraints & seats – Good
  • Front Crash Prevention – Superior (with optional equipment)
  • Headlights – Acceptable (only on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors – Acceptable

The 2017 Honda CR-V was redesigned and the newest model proves to perform well under pressure.

Like Toyota’s small SUV, the CR-V didn’t perform well when it was released. In 2015, the vehicle started earning safety awards. The 2017 redesign of the CR-V shows that safety is a priority.

The vehicle earned “Good” ratings in frontal crash tests but was not given a passenger-side score to compare to Toyota’s.

Like the RAV4, the CR-V received a six out of six for a “Superior” Front Crash Prevention rating, but the only major difference is that the vehicle was equipped with an optional Collision Mitigation Brake System instead of the standard system.

Both the headlight and child seat latch ratings come in at “Acceptable.”

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Top Safety Pick+

Sometimes, deciphering the ratings can be difficult. Getting a better score in one area doesn’t always make one car safer than the other. It’s nice to look at the Top Safety Pick awards to see which models perform better than most in their class.

When you’re comparing the Toyota RAV4 to the Honda CR-V, this might make your choice more difficult because they are both 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award recipients.

While they are both still labeled as Top Safety Pick+ designs in the small SUV platform, one vehicle does outscore the other. If you’re looking at each of the scores individually, Toyota is the safer option.

While it did receive a “Poor” on the passenger side test, this is an area that the Honda wasn’t tested for. The “Superior” grades for standard crash prevention systems and child latching seats sets it above the Honda.

If you’re looking for a small SUV, always do your research. Not only should you look at safety ratings, but you should also compare insurance premium costs.

Generally, a safer vehicle will cost less to insure. Use an online rating comparison tool, and enter information about each vehicle to get quotes. Enter your zip code below to get started.