The Most Dangerous Cars in America

August 20, 2015 by Sam Stebbins

Accident with two cars Today, buyers of a new car can easily compare between vehicles’ safety ratings. And consumers increasingly demand safer vehicles and want cars that can meet the highest safety standards. Still, a great number of popular cars sold in the United States not only fail to score perfect marks on crash tests, but also pose a serious risk to drivers who end up in the wrong kind of accident.

Nonprofit crash test and highway safety research organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), performs a variety of tests on hundreds of car models sold in the country, grading them on frontal, rollover, side crashes, and head and restraint safety. In 2012, the IIHS implemented a new small overlap frontal crash test. To date, 20 vehicles of model year 2015 received a poor rating in this or one of the other major tests, meaning that driver injury is very likely in this kind of a crash. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 20 most dangerous vehicles in the United States.

Click here to see the 20 most dangerous cars.

The small overlap front test is meant to measure what will happen to a vehicle in a frontal collision when only a small part of the left front collides with either another vehicle or a non-moving object. Such a crash can occur when two vehicles approaching each other swerve to miss but still strike each other. Or it can occur when a vehicle careens off a road and strikes a tree or pole on the left front of the car. In these crashes, airbag systems can sometimes operate at less than optimal efficiency because most front-end crash protection is concentrated on the middle part of the vehicle. A crash on the outer edge can result in significant intrusion, meaning that parts of the car intruding on the driver’s space.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at IIHS, told 24/7 Wall St. that this type of accident is responsible for roughly one-quarter of all injuries
and fatalities in front-end crashes.

Over the few years since the test has been introduced, most automakers have adjusted for this new test, and the vast majority of 2015 vehicles received at least an acceptable score on this test. According to Rader, automakers have recognized the importance of meeting the highest safety standards in the eyes of consumers, and have either adjusted immediately or are rushing to do so now. “We’ve identified a type of crash that … represents a significant chunk of the injuries and deaths that occur in newer vehicles in frontal impacts,” Rader said. “And while we kept the automakers apprised of the test development all along the way, some of the automakers are having to play catch up.”

Earlier this year, Ford (NYSE: F) earned some bad press when one of the versions of its new F-150 — the most popular light vehicle in the country for years — earned a marginal rating in the test. Ford announced it would make structural changes to the 2016 version of the truck in order to fix the problem.

While automakers are in the process of updating to meet this new standard, the models that continue to fail this new test, and even still perform poorly on some of the others, are generally models that have not been updated in some time. “The common thread there is an older vehicle that hasn’t been through a redesign in quite a few years,” Rader said. “The CX-9, for example, was introduced in 2007, before we launched the roof strength test or the small overlap test.” The 2-door Jeep Wrangler, made by Fiat Chrysler (NYSE: FCAU) which received a marginal or poor rating in three of the four categories it was tested in, has not been significantly updated in nearly a decade.

It is difficult to determine the extent to which Americans are discerning when it comes to the safety ratings of these vehicles. Most of the cars, trucks, and vans on this list are not among the top U.S. sellers, and some, such as the Nissan Quest, Lincoln MKS, and Mazda 5, have sold less than 10,000 units through the first seven months of 2015..On the other hand, the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Escape, which are in the top 20 for U.S. auto sales this year, each receive a poor rating on one major crash test conducted by IIHS.

Consumers should be paying attention to ratings such as this, Rader said. “When people go out looking for a new car, they assume that because it’s for sale, it meets safety standards and is a safe vehicle. And while all vehicles have to meet certain [government regulated] safety standards … not all vehicles are the same for crashworthiness performance. There are still important differences out there. And that’s why it is important for consumers to check crash test ratings before they buy.”

To be considered one of the least safe cars in the country, there had to be a 2015 edition of the model available for sale in the U.S., ad that model needed to receive a poor rating in at least one of the major categories tested by IIHS, which includes small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. Year to date car sales were through July, and were provided by Kelley Blue Book. The 2015 models were not necessarily tested by IIHS, but in some cases an earlier year of the model was used and the results carried over, as long as the car’s generation had not changed, and the manufacturer had made no updates that could potentially change the safety of the vehicle. In some cases multiple configurations of the model were tested. To be listed, only one configuration of the vehicle needed to meet our criteria to pass. It should be noted that IIHS has made no claim about the vehicles listed here being dangerous, those words are 24/7 Wall St.’s alone.

These are the most dangerous cars in America.

1. 5
> Make:
Mazda
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front, side
> Sales year-to-date: 6,835
> MSRP: $21,240

The Mazda 5, a compact minivan, was introduced to American drivers in 2005. The IIHS gave the car top marks in only two out of the five safety measures. A 2015 Mazda 5 received a marginal rating for side impact collisions and a poor rating for frontal collisions with a small overlap. In the event of a side impact collision, IIHS testing revealed that torso injuries would be possible for Mazda 5 passengers. Not an especially popular car, Mazda has sold less than 7,000 5s in the United States so far this year.

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2. 500
> Make:
Fiat
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front (2- and 4-door)
> Sales year-to-date: 17,349
> MSRP: $19,345 (4-door) $16,845 (2-door)

The Italian automaker was selling the popular Fiat 500 — or Cinquecento — in Europe as far back as the 1950s. The tiny car was built for small European streets, favoring maneuverability over legroom. Like its spiritual predecessor, the new 500 is very small, weighing barely a ton. The new 500, both the 2-door and 4-door editions, failed the small overlap front test. According to IIHS, testing showed that drivers are likely to sustain injuries to the lower left leg in the event of a partial head-on crash.

3. A4
> Make:
Audi
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 15,765
> MSRP: $36,500

Introduced in the 1990s, the Audi A4 is arguably the most iconic model in the German automaker’s lineup. As is the case with most of the vehicles on this list, the Audi A4 passed each of the standard tests: side, roof strength, head restraints and seats, and moderate frontal overlap. However, the small overlap frontal crash tests on the Audi A4 revealed a high risk of injury, particularly to the thigh and hip area if such a crash occurs. In the small overlap crash test, the A4’s door opened, which can be dangerous because the driver could be ejected from the vehicle.

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4. Accent
> Make:
Hyundai
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 40,252
> MSRP: $14,745

The Hyundai Accent has come a long way to meet IIHS safety standards since it was introduced in 1995. As early as six years ago, the car did not have a single safety rating above acceptable from the IIHS, with a poor rating for both side impact collisions and the safety of its head restraints and seats. Today, though it still has some safety issues, the Korean automaker’s compact car performs slightly better. The 2015 model received top safety ratings in every category except for side impact and small overlap frontal collisions, which were rated acceptable and poor, respectively.

5. CX-9
> Make:
Mazda
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front, roof strength, head restraints & seats
> Sales year-to-date: 10,848
> MSRP: $29,985

Not one of the most popular cars in the United States, Mazda has sold slightly more than 10,800 CX-9s so far this year. The large crossover SUV is one of just two 2015 model vehicles tested by the IIHS to receive moderate or worse ratings in at least three categories. In addition to a poor rating for a small overlap front crash, which means injury is very likely in the event of that kind of crash, the CX-9 also received marginal ratings for roof strength and head and seat restraints, meaning injury is likely in the event of an accident related to that part of the vehicle. For the roof strength test, the vehicle should be able to sustain at least four times the vehicle’s weight to receive the best possible rating. The CX-9 was only able to sustain 2.81 times its own weight.

6. Escape
> Make:
Ford
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 175,669
> MSRP: $22,960

Selling more than 175,000 units year-to-date, the Ford Escape is one of the most popular vehicles in the country. It is also relatively unsafe. In 2008, Ford started selling the Escape with side curtain airbags standard in every available trim. This improved the IIHS’s safety rating for side impact accidents from the a grade of poor on some models to good. The 2015 model received received a rating of poor for head-on collisions with a small overlap. The IIHS crash tests revealed that those riding in a Ford Escape are susceptible to serious injuries to their hips and thighs in such accidents.

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7. Grand Caravan
> Make:
Dodge
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 44,442
> MSRP: $21,795

Currently on its fifth generation, the Dodge Grand Caravan remains a primary competitor in the minivan market it helped pioneer in the mid-1980s. The Grand Caravan’s fifth generation marked an improvement of the vehicle’s safety features, including improved safety ratings for moderate front overlap and side collisions. However, the vehicle performed poorly in head-on collisions with small overlap. Crash simulations revealed that severe lower body injuries are likely in such cases.

8. Journey
> Make:
Dodge
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 59,563
> MSRP: $20,695

The Dodge Journey, a small to midsize crossover, was introduced in 2009. In the model’s entire history, the car scored perfect marks in every major crash test category with the exception of the partial front impact test. In that test, the Journey received a poor rating, with injuries to the right hip, right knee, and right lower leg likely in this type of a crash. During the test, the dummy’s left lower leg was hurt by the parking brake pedal.

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9. Juke
> Make:
Nissan
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 15,994
> MSRP: $20,250

The Nissan Juke, a subcompact crossover SUV, has been a unique option for American drivers since its 2011 introduction. While the vehicle received top safety marks from the IIHS in most measures, it failed in instances of a head-on collision with a small overlap. In such cases, drivers would likely sustain injuries to their lower left leg and foot. With moderate frontal overlap however, IIHS tests revealed “a low risk of any significant injuries.”

10. Leaf
> Make:
Nissan
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 10,990
> MSRP: $21,510

Introduced in 2011, the Nissan Leaf was the first fully electric vehicle priced for the typical car buyer. The vehicle, which can travel about 75 miles on a full charge, received favourable reviews from Consumer Reports. The IIHS gave the Leaf top safety scores in all categories but one. The Leaf received a poor safety rating for head-on collisions with a small overlap. In such accidents, the IIHS found that “injuries to the left knee and left lower leg would be likely,” and that “injuries to the left thigh would be possible.” Nissan sold more than 30,000 Leafs in 2014.

11. Mirage
> Make:
Mitsubishi
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 15,054
> MSRP: $12,995

Mitsubishi’s Mirage is the Japanese auto manufacturer’s attempt to penetrate the small car market. According to auto research site Edmunds.com, the car could never truly compete and was discontinued after the 2002 model year. The Japanese automaker reintroduced the compact car in 2014 to less than excellent reviews. Edmunds.com gave the car a D rating, and Consumer Reports described it as “Perhaps the worst-handling new car on sale.” The car’s poor handling should be worrying to potential buyers, as the Mirage received a failing grade from IIHS in its partial overlap front test.

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12. MKS
> Make:
Lincoln
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 4,373
> MSRP: $38,850

The Lincoln MKS, which was introduced to the market in 2008, is the automaker’s attempt to penetrate the luxury sedan segment. Besides an engine upgrade and suspension enhancements in 2013, the MKS has not received a major overhaul since it was introduced. While receiving the best possible rating in other tests, including side, roof strength, and moderate overlap frontal crash, the MKS received the worst possible rating for small overlap front crashes, meaning injury in the event of this type of crash is highly likely.

13. Patriot
> Make:
Jeep
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 69,128
> MSRP: $16,895

Reviewers in Consumer Reports were not overly impressed with the Jeep Patriot. Introduced less than 10 years ago, Consumer Reports lists no pros to balance out the vehicle’s litany of cons. And though the small crossover SUV has improved its IIHS safety ratings since 2007, it still has several safety issues. A 2015 Jeep Patriot received a poor rating, the lowest possible, for head-on collisions with a small overlap. Crash models revealed that drivers would likely sustain injuries to their left foot and lower leg in such a crash.

14. Pilot
> Make:
Honda
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 78,540
> MSRP: $29,870

The Honda Pilot has been marketed to families as a comparable alternative to minivans since it was first introduced in 2003. In its first three years, the crossover SUV did not receive top marks from the IIHS for the safety of its head restraints and seats. Honda addressed these concerns in the 2006 model and every year since. The 2015 model, however, was found to be deficient in its ability to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a head-on collision with a small overlap. Serious hip and thigh injuries are likely in such an accident.

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15. Quest
> Make:
Nissan
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 6,295
> MSRP: $26,530

The Nissan Quest was introduced to the American market in 1993 and is currently on its fourth generation. According to Edmunds.com, the minivan has never really caught on as a top-seller. Through the first seven months of this year, Nissan sold less than 6,300 Quests in the United States, compared to sales of more than 75,000 Honda Odysseys. Unlike most of the car’s biggest competitors — the Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, the Quest received a poor rating from the IIHS in the partial overlap frontal crash test. In this test, the upper interior part of the vehicle, as well as the instrument panel, intruded by as much as a foot and a half.

16. Sportage
> Make:
Kia
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 29,247
> MSRP: $21,900

The Kia Sportage is the Korean automaker’s foothold in the crossover SUV market. In 2007, the vehicle received no top safety marks from the IIHS. Though the vehicle is much safer today than it was eight years ago, it is still relatively unsafe. In head-on collisions with a small overlap, the Sportage received a rating of poor, the worst possible rank. According to the test results, injuries to the driver’s left knee and left lower leg would be possible in such a crash, while risk of significant injuries to other body regions is low. As of July, Kia sold more than 29,000 Sportages so far in 2015.

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17. Town & Country
> Make:
Chrysler
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 45,404
> MSRP: $29,995

The Chrysler Town & Country has long been a suitable option for families. The first two years of the vehicle’s fifth generation were marked by increased safety in side and moderate front overlap collisions. However, IIHS safety tests revealed a decline in the effectiveness of the minivan’s head restraints. These shortcomings were addressed in 2010 and every subsequent model year. The 2015 Town & Country scored well in all collision tests except in frontal collisions with small overlap. The vehicle received a poor rating in that category due to the high likelihood of significant injuries from the hip down in such accidents.

18. Tucson
> Make:
Hyundai
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 26,542
> MSRP: $21,650

During partial overlap crash tests of the 2015 Hyundai Tucson, the side curtain airbag failed to deploy, “leaving the dummy’s head vulnerable to contacts with side structure and outside objects.” While the current version of the Tucson received perfect marks in other tests, besides the partial overlap crash, earlier generations had more widespread safety issues. A 2007 version of the vehicle, for example, scored acceptable rating in moderate overlap frontal and side crashes, and it received the worst possible ratings for roof strength and head restraints and seats.

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19. Versa
> Make:
Nissan
> Bad ratings: Small overlap front
> Sales year-to-date: 76,904
> MSRP: $11,990

Introduced to American drivers in 2007, the Versa is Nissan’s utilitarian subcompact car.
Currently in its second generation, Consumer Reports concluded that the vehicle’s quality has declined since its first generation. Though the 2015 Versa passed most of the IIHS safety tests, it received a rating of poor, the lowest grade possible, in frontal collisions with a small overlap. Crash tests revealed that the “driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure” in such accidents.

20. 2-door Wrangler
> Make:
Jeep
> Bad ratings: Side, head restraints & seats (4-door) small overlap front, side, head restraints & seats (2-door)
> Sales year-to-date: 121,770
> MSRP: $26,795 (4-door) $22,995 (2-door)

Now available to the general public, the Jeep Wrangler has roots as a military transport vehicle in WWII. Today, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the most popular cars in the country, selling nearly 122,000 units year-to-date. Despite the SUV’s popularity, both the 2-door and 4-door models have dismal safety ratings from the IIHS. The 4-door Wrangler, received marginal ratings for side impact collisions and the safety of its head restraints. Testing by the IIHS revealed that “rib fractures and/or internal organ injuries would be likely” in the case of a side impact collision.

The 2-door model Wrangler is even less safe. It received the worst possible rating of poor for side impact collisions, and marginal ratings for both the effectiveness of its head restraints and head-on collisions with a small overlap. The IIHS observed that in the event of a side impact collision, torso and pelvis injuries would be likely.