2018 Ford Escape earns worst safety rating in round of passenger-side crash evaluations test.
"Disparities like this one are why we made a decision to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side", says Becky Mueller, a senior research engineer with the Institute who helped develop the passenger-side small overlap front test. "Manufacturers shouldn't shortchange protection for front-seat passengers".
The IIHS started evaluating passenger-side safety measures in 2017 to encourage manufacturers to offer the same level of protection for front-seat passengers as for drivers.
The rest of the IIHS' test field of small SUVs - one of America's most popular and quickest-growing segments - performed markedly better.
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Mueller said that most automakers are reacting to the new test by making safety improvements when a model is scheduled to be refreshed or redesigned.
Ford has not directly responded to the latest crash test ranking, but notes that the Escape has been awarded five-star New Car Assessment Program ratings in the U.S., Europe, China and Australia. "The side curtain airbags should have deployed in these crashes". "Side curtain airbags should deploy in crashes like this". With such a failure, the passenger would be vulnerable to contact with the side structure and outside objects in a small overlap front crash.
The compact Ford Escape was the only of seven small SUVs to receive a "Poor" rating in the latest IIHS test for occupant protection, though the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport managed an only slightly better "Marginal" rating in the small overlap front crash test - which is created to simulate what happens when a vehicle clips a pole, a tree or the corner of an oncoming vehicle.
As with the Escape, the side curtain airbag failed in the Outlander Sport, and IIHS said both incidents came as a surprise. The test involves the test vehicle hitting an offset barrier at 40 miles per hour, with only a quarter of the vehicle's front hitting a barrier, a scenario that results in a challengingly asymmetric distribution of crash forces.
The passenger-side test is virtually identical to the driver-side one, except the vehicle overlaps the barrier on the right side. The company did not conduct the same changes to the passenger side, which is the focus of this particular IIHS test.
The Institute has used that process, known as test verification, to assign other types of ratings under certain circumstances. A spokesman also noted that the compact SUV received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's own crash measurements - which do not include the small overlap test.