DETROIT - Only two of 13 small SUVs performed well in front-end crash tests done by an insurance industry group, with several popular models faring poorly in the evaluations.
Subaru's 2014 Forester was the only vehicle to get the top "good" rating in the results released Thursday. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was rated as "acceptable." But fast-selling models such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Jeep Wrangler received only "marginal" or "poor" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Small and midsize SUVs, which get decent gas mileage and have the cargo and passenger space of larger SUVs, are among the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. auto market. Sales grew 50 percent from 2005 to last year, when U.S. consumers bought more than 2.5 million of them, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.
The IIHS ratings are influential because many auto shoppers find them while researching vehicles on the Internet. The group says its crash tests and ratings are designed to get automakers to improve the crashworthiness of their vehicles.
The ratings are for the institute's "small overlap" crash test that covers only 25 percent of a vehicle's front end. The test was added to the IIHS evaluations last year, with the institute aiming to push automakers into bolstering the crash resistance of their vehicles.
The group's tests are more stringent than the U.S. government's full-width front crash test. The institute says that in many vehicles, a crash affecting one-quarter of the front end misses the main structures designed to absorb the impact of a crash. Yet such crashes account for nearly a quarter of the collisions that cause serious or fatal injuries to people in the front seats, IIHS said.
The new Ford Escape, the top-selling small SUV so far this year, got a "poor" overall rating, while Honda's CR-V, the No. 2 seller, got a "marginal" rating. Toyota's RAV-4, another big seller, hasn't done the testing yet because Toyota asked for a delay to improve the vehicle's structure, the IIHS said.
The Forester and Outlander Sport each received the IIHS' coveted "Top Safety Pick Plus" award because they performed well in multiple tests including the small offset crash.
Many of the other SUVs, including the Escape and CR-V, won "Top Safety Pick" designations, but didn't get the "plus" due to their performance in the small offset tests. Only 20 vehicles across all car segments have received the IIHS "Top Safety Pick Plus" award.
At a glance
How small SUVs fared in frontal crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport