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Flimsy bumpers faulted in SUV crash tests

Funded by the insurance industry, the Insurance Industry for Highway Safety crash tested SUV's at 5 mph to measure bumper performance  

September 14, 2000
Web posted at: 3:41 PM EDT (1941 GMT)

In this story:

Worst and best

Why SUVs don't crash test well


ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- Although sport utility vehicles are advertised as rugged, four midsize SUVs averaged more than $1,000 in damage in each of a series of low-speed crash tests, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A fifth vehicle tested, the 2001 BMW X5, "is the only SUV in this group with halfway decent bumpers," says institute president Brian O'Neill.

The institute, funded by the insurance industry, crash tested each of the SUVs at 5 mph to measure bumper performance in four categories:

  • Front into flat barrier

  • Front into an angled barrier

  • Rear into an angled barrier

  • Rear into a pole

Worst and best

With the results announced Wednesday, the institute has now crash tested more than a dozen midsize SUVs dating back to 1996 models.

The "worst performer" -- not just in the latest findings but among all midsize SUVs tested over the years -- is the 2000 model Isuzu Trooper. It sustained total damage of $11,158 in the four tests, or $2,790 in average damage per crash.

Other SUVs rated as "poor performers" in the latest low-speed tests are:

  • 2001 Mitsubishi Montero ($9,061 total damage/$2,265 average damage per crash)

  • 2000 Isuzu Rodeo ($5,177 total damage/$1,294 average damage per crash)

  • 2000 Nissan Xterra ($4,446 total damage/ $1,112 average damage per crash)

The 2000 Isuzu Trooper was the poorest performer among all the midsize SUVs the insurance institute has tested for bumper performance, says Brian O'Neill, institute president  

"Consumers can expect big repair bills if they're unlucky enough to bump these so-called rugged vehicles into something at slow speeds," O'Neill said.

By comparison, the institute says the BMW X5 is the best performer it has tested over the years. Even so, it sustained $2,187 in total damage, averaging $547 per crash.

"The rear bumper is good," said O'Neill. "It allowed only about $200 damage in the pole impact, which usually is the toughest of our four bumper tests. The X5 also performed well in the rear-into-flat-barrier test, but there was too much damage in the front-flat and front-angle barrier tests."

Why SUVs don't crash test well

The institute said one reason SUVs perform so poorly in bumper tests is that they aren't subject to any requirements to prevent damage in low-speed impacts.

Automobile bumpers have to meet federal standards in 2.5 mph impacts, and most of the bumper systems on cars include foam or other material to absorb crash energy. "But the bumpers on most SUVs -- including both Isuzu models, the Montero and the Xterra -- don't have anything effective to absorb energy," O'Neill said.

But "the BMW X5 does," he added. "It has energy absorbers on the back, which is one reason it performed so well in the rear impacts."

Detroit Bureau Chief Ed Garsten and Senior Writer Jim Morris contributed to this report.

Special: Survive your drive
August 24, 2000
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May 31, 2000
Subaru Legacy rates best in latest midsize crash tests
April 11, 2000
Car bumpers put to test; 'excessive damage' reported
March 29, 2000

SUV crash test results
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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