Is Volvo’s safety rating for midsize luxury SUVs better than BMW’s?

Volvo SUV's have a higher safety rating than BMW SUV's according to IIHS test studies. Auto insurance costs average around 18% more for some luxury model SUV's.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

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 Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Mar 22, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • Presently, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) are strongly present in the market where people oftentimes fail to acknowledge their safety hazards
  • Companies such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provide real-life-like tests to access SUVs’ safety rankings
  • Volvo and BMW compare fairly close to one another, however, there are distinctions between topics such as front crash prevention efficiency and small overlap frontal crash performance
  • Given the results, Volvo outperforms BMW in certain areas

Ever since Chevrolet came out with their Carryall Suburban, the first modern-day SUV model from 1935, the market for these vehicles has been gaining momentum.

This momentum has turned into a large force that now holds over 11 percent of the entire market.

Regardless of the powerful presence, SUVs tend to have some safety issues often overlooked. The problems arise when the vehicles’ sheer size is undermined by their comfort.

Yes, SUVs will provide a very spacious cabin to as many as seven people, but this comes in the form of a 4,000-pound vehicle. Therefore, what could be expected out of a multi-ton giant?

Well, issues with steering, difficulties controlling, and troubling emergency braking is a good start. Nevertheless, many brands work hard to preserve households that invest in their SUV models.

For one to objectively compare large manufacturers and their midsize SUVs, the IIHS’s reviews (IIHS) are a great starting point. Since the company works for a larger public good, their tests are designed to reflect real-life situations:

  • Crashworthiness – Tests such as an overlap front crash simulation
  • Crash Avoidance – Assessments such as front crash prevention
  • Child Seat Anchors – Ease of use

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Volvo Versus BMW


Volvo was established 90 years ago and comes from Sweeden. BMW, or Bayerische Motoren Werke, however, was found in 1945 in Bavaria.

Both manufacturers produce cars of all sizes and shapes, and SUVs are a very common practice of theirs. To orchestrate a quality comparison, the Volvo XC60 and the BMW X3 will be used as they are both midsize luxury SUV models form 2017.

The Rating System

The way the IIHS classifies vehicles is based on three factors aforesaid. Crashworthiness and child anchors ratings can be good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. However, crash avoidance is evaluated on a basic-moderate-superior spectrum.


When it comes to the CX60, Volvo’s performance in this area is above and beyond. Every single test was rated “good” by the IIHS.

Volvo was complimented for maintaining a great survival space during the small overlap front, a test which the BMW X3 did not have a score on. BMW’s X3 also had a good rating for crashworthiness, only not as impressive.

Head restraints and seats, which have been one of the main issues for BMW in the past, performed up to par. Dummy movement was limited by the frontal and side airbags that prevented any injuries to the head or neck area.

Although there was a lack of some tests (small overlap frontal crash), BMW showcased an ability to upkeep one’s safety during a severe accident. Ultimately. Volvo outdid the BMW as their record was complete.


Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

From an overall perspective, BMW’s X3 had a higher “superior” rating than the Volvo CX60. Up until 2015, BMW struggled with some very low “basic” review of their crash avoidance abilities. This problem was dealt with, enabling them to stay competitive against their rivals.

Volvo’s model utilizes an optional collision warning with full auto brake while BMW has extra extended collision mitigation. The X3 received three points in the high-speed auto brake while the Volvo was capped at two. This point led to a six to five score in BMW’s favor.

Child Seat Anchors


A common shortcoming of both cars was their lower anchor being too deep in the seat. This mixed with BMW’s harsh anchor that requires excessive force to use, as well as Volvo’s creation that is hard to maneuver around, granted both brands a “marginal” rating only.

As this is the second from the lowest, it seems that both brands need some upgrades within this area. The BMW X3 has a slight advantage by not utilizing hardware that can be confused for an anchor.

Top Safety Pick

The main area where Volvo takes advantage is its perfect completion of all five areas of crashworthiness. This test enabled the model to be selected as a Top Safety Pick, something that the BMW X3 did not get as they had no scores on small overlap front test.

Volvo also beat BMW in the area of headlights’ efficiency where they scored a good rating. BMW’s two of the three headlight variations got a marginal score, and one even performed poorly.

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Outperforming BMW


Although the BMW has performed very well in their IIHS tests, the X3 luxury SUV was not able to match the Volvo’s CX60.

This result comes from the fact that Volvo did the following:

  • dominated every single category of the crashworthiness test
  • had better headlights performance
  • maintained the consistency that can be a key factor of driver’s survival

Furthermore, Volvo has persevered a lot better history of ratings over the past decade, whereas BMW struggled to do this.

The Bavarian manufacturer had issues with head restraints and seats up until 2008, and their front crash prevention was nothing more than basic up until two years ago. Volvo has demonstrated a longer trend of successfully increased safety that trumps BMW’s efforts.

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