Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain Take Top Safety Award

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Only two mid-sized SUVs did well enough to take the top honor in a new safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests: General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Chevrolet Equinox and GMC’s Terrain. Six of nine mid-sized SUVs tested did not qualify for the coveted 2014, Top Safety Pick designation.

The institute’s management reported that its small overlap front crash test has been hard for a large number of models to pass. Their description of the test:

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) Highlander qualified as a 2014, Top Safety Pick but did not do as well as the top two models. The Toyota received mediocre scores for overall rating and measures of its structure.

One of the SUVs got particularly bad ratings:

The Honda Pilot was the worst performer in this group. The driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure. In the worst instance, the parking brake pedal moved inward 16½ inches. The dummy’s head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved 5½ inches to the right. Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left knee and both lower legs would be possible.

The other mid-sized SUVs that received low grades were Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, the Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Explorer, the Kia Serento and Mazda CX-9.

The organization’s comment about the test:

SUVs have gotten much safer over the past few generations, but some are better than others at providing comprehensive front crash protection,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward. The Equinox and Terrain score well in all components of the small overlap test — structure, restraints and kinematics, and injury measures for four body regions.

“Safer over the past few generations” won’t give much comfort to drivers of the Honda Pilot and other losers.

24/7 Wall St. also wonders if GM will have to give away 2 million cars because of the recent recalls.