Though frontal collision impact results have improved for many sport utility vehicles, when it comes to side-impact collisions, not all SUVs are created equally, according to crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The results found that some midsize SUVs have worse results for side-impact crashes than many cars.
The test evaluated how well midsize SUVs protect people in the two most common kinds of serious crashes, according to the institute.
Six SUVs were tested, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevrolet Trailblazer. Both were determined to be among the worst for side-impact collisions, despite being equipped with standard side air bags.
Five of the six SUVs tested earned the top rating of good in the institute's 40 mph offset test, including the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan's Pathfinder and Xterra.
The Trailblazer was the only vehicle to receive a merely acceptable rating in the frontal crash test.
When the examination moved to side impacts, however, the results differed dramatically.
"With these midsized SUVs we would expect them to do a little better in the side-impact test than cars because they're higher off the ground," said the institute's Adrian Lund.
Nissan's Pathfinder and Xterra were rated good, but only when they were equipped with the optional side air bags. Without this extra protection, the vehicles earned marginal ratings.
The Toyota 4Runner, which is equipped with standard side air bags, was rated good, while the Ford Explorer earned an acceptable rating.
In some cases the standard side air bags didn't make much difference. The Grand Cherokee and Trailblazer did the poorest in the side-crash test. Both are equipped with standard side air bags, but received marginal ratings.
Each has an air bag to protect the head, but not the torso.