— Out of seven midsize SUVs, four failed to achieve a "good" or "acceptable" rating in the small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an organization funded by insurance companies.
The small overlap crash test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits an object at 40 mph. Numerous automakers have experienced problems with the test because it's more difficult than other crash tests.
IIHS tested seven 2015 models: Nissan Murano, Ford Flex, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Journey, Dodge Durango, Jeep Cherokee and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
2015 Nissan Murano (Good)
The SUV that took top honors is the 2015 Nissan Murano, which earned a "good" rating in the small overlap crash test. IIHS researchers said the driver space held its own and the test dummy hit the front airbag correctly. The side curtain airbag deployed properly and did its job to protect the dummy's head.
All of this means a low risk of serious injuries to a driver in a similar crash.
Jeep Wrangler (Good)
The Jeep Wrangler was built for a crash test like the small overlap test. The Wrangler uses a stiff bracket that is welded to the outside of the frame rail. That design helps to provide support to the suspension, and a strong bumper provides added protection.
The above protection helped the Wrangler to deflect off the barrier and kept the occupant compartment in good shape. Measurements to the crash-test dummy indicated a moderate risk of injuries to the lower legs, but the dummy's movement was controlled.
However, IIHS says a real driver might have additional problems in a slightly different crash because the Wrangler is sold without side airbags, a standard feature in most new vehicles.
The Wrangler did well in the small overlap test, but IIHS says it doesn't recommend the Wrangler because the SUV offers only marginal protection in side and rear crashes.
Ford Flex (Acceptable)
The Ford Flex had problems with the structure intruding eight inches and a full seven inches at the instrument panel, plus the steering column traveled four inches toward the dummy. The head of the dummy barely hit the front airbag before sliding off to the left. However, measurements taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of serious injuries, which was enough to earn the Flex an "acceptable" rating.
The Dodge Durango, Jeep Cherokee and Hyundai Santa Fe each earned a "marginal" rating, but it was the Dodge Journey that suffered the most from the test.
Dodge Journey (Poor)
Bringing up the rear is the Dodge Journey, the worst of the SUVs tested this round. Researchers said the test dummy had its leg impaled by the parking brake pedal, not a comforting thought to a real driver. But that wasn't all.
The Dodge Journey occupant compartment failed and intruded into the driver-side area by nine inches at the instrument panel. Then there were the additional injuries the crash would have caused to a driver, including left hip and knee injuries, and damage to the right lower leg.
That's quite a beating to the lower body, but the upper body had its own problems. The dummy's head barely hit the front airbag before sliding off the left side while the steering column moved to the right.
To add insult to injury, the head of the dummy was left without protection because the side curtain airbag failed to deploy. Ouch!
Read owner-reported complaints about the SUVs tested by IIHS: