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Is Hyundai’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Ford’s?

Things to remember...

  • Hyundai released the Tusco in 2005, right when compact SUVs became popular
  • If you’re comparing two makes to find the safer option, always look at each make’s IIHS safety ratings
  • Hyundai has improved its small SUV safety ratings significantly since 2005 and now earns Top Safety Pick+ awards
  • The latest Hyundai Tuscon earned “Good” crashworthiness ratings in each area tested which makes it a safe choice
  • Between Hyundai and Ford, Hyundai manufactures the safer compact SUV in 2017 based on test performance

Hyundai entered the auto industry in the 1980s with a bang. Within just a year of selling value-priced models in the United States, the automaker had taken over a segment of the market that had recently been abandoned by other popular brands like Honda and Toyota.

Now, Hyundai produces much more than just economy cars. One such area of the market the car maker is competing in is the small SUV segment.

Hyundai started off with a less than perfect reputation in reliability and safety. In fact, some of the earlier models released earned “Poor” crash test grades regardless of how well they were selling.

One area where safety ratings were really struggling for Hyundai was the SUV market. The company’s only SUV was earning regular “Poor” ratings on driver-side crash tests.

In 2015, Hyundai made strides in efforts to improve safety ratings for their occupants and it showed.

The five-seater Tuscon finally became a Top Safety Pick and passed all crash tests without a single red score.

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If you’re looking to buy a small SUV, knowing how that model year performs in a crash can ultimately save your life. When you’re trying to decide between a small SUV by Hyundai or Ford, here’s what you should know:

Table of Contents

Understanding IIHS Safety Ratings

You don’t want to have to collide with a large object just to see how your small SUV is going to hold up. That’s why there are non-profit organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that will do this for you.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has an entire research center set up just to crash vehicles in high-speed and low-speed accidents to see how injured someone might get. The tests performed include:

  • Small overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Front crash prevention
  • Headlight performance
  • Child seat anchor and tether ease of use

The IIHS has been around since 1959 but it didn’t start smashing vehicles in the Vehicle Research Center until 1992.

It wasn’t until about three years later that a safety rating system was developed that could be used universally. Now, Hyundai, Ford and all other vehicles on the market will be given one of the possible IIHS safety ratings below:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Frontal Crash Prevention and Avoidance – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

If you want to know if Hyundai is safer than Ford, you’ll have to look at specific vehicles in a segment of the market that was released in the same production year. This is the only way to do an effective comparison of each vehicle for tests performed at that time.

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Safety Ratings for the 2017 Hyundai Tuscon

  • Small overlap front crash – Good
  • Moderate overlap front crash – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head Restraints – Good
  • Front Crash Mitigation – Superior(with optional equipment)
  • Headlight Evaluation – Acceptable (with optional equipment)
  • Child Seat Anchor and Tether Ease of Use – Acceptable

Between 2005 and 2009, the Hyundai Tuscon earned very low safety ratings.

While there was improvement between 2010 and 2015, the design during this period still earned a “Poor” driver-side rating. It was 2016 and 2017 where the small SUV’s design was both more stylish and safer.

In 2017, the small crossover’s IIHS safety reviews were better than ever before.

Not only did the vehicle earn the highest scores possible in the front side, roof, seat, and head restraint tests, it also managed to pull in a “Superior” score for its Front Crash Prevention system called Automatic Emergency Braking equipped in the Ultimate Package.

The only two areas where the 2017 Hyundai Tuscon was not perfect were in the headlight tests and child seat anchor tests. The fairly new headlight tests are hard to rely on because not many vehicle types do well on them.

The Tuscon earned an “Acceptable” grade because of the light measured on gradual curves. Ease of use for latching systems was also reported: “Acceptable.”

Safety Ratings for the 2017 Ford Escape

  • Small overlap front crash – Acceptable
  • Moderate overlap front crash – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head Restraints – Good
  • Front Crash Prevention System – Basic one out of six points (with optional equipment)
  • Headlight Evaluation – Acceptable (with optional equipment)
  • Child Seat Anchors and Tether Ease of Use – Marginal

The Ford Escape has been competing with other small SUVs a bit longer than the Tuscon. Released in 2001, the four-door Escape has been a popular economy choice.

Like the Tuscon, Ford’s small SUV did not perform well in tests from 2001 to 2008. There were minor strides made in 2009 and 2012, but the improvements weren’t as significant as they were with Hyundai.

The 2017 Ford Escape did earn “Good” scores in front, side, roof, head restraint, and seat tests.

Unfortunately, the 2017 model only scored as “Acceptable” in driver-side front crash tests, which automatically takes it out of the running for safety awards.

Also disappointing is that the model earned only one out of six for a “Basic” score in Front Crash Prevention.

Top Safety Pick+

Hyundai has made the list of Top Safety Pick+ award-winning makes for small SUVs along with nine other manufacturers.

The perfect crashworthiness scores and the excellent autobraking system are to thank for the designation. Unfortunately for Ford, the automaker didn’t even qualify for a lower-end award with the grades the 2017 Escape received.

At the end of the day, the safety ratings for the 2017 Hyundai Tuscon are substantially better than the ratings of the Ford Escape. This makes Hyundai the winner at least in terms of the latest small SUV model released.

If you’d like to purchase a Hyundai or any other small SUV available, make sure to quote the cost of auto insurance. As you compare Hyundai and Ford, you can compare auto insurance premiums as well.

Getting instant comparison quotes online can really help you see what a difference safety ratings make. Enter your zip code below to get started comparing today.


  1. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/TSP-List
  2. https://www.edmunds.com/hyundai/tucson/
  3. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/about-us
  4. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings
  5. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/hyundai/tucson-4-door-suv/2009#jump-to
  6. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/hyundai/tucson-4-door-suv/2015#other-model-years
  7. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/hyundai/tucson-4-door-suv/2017#jump-to
  8. https://www.hyundaiusa.com/tucson/comparison.aspx
  9. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/ratings-info/headlight-evaluation
  10. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/escape-4-door-suv/2001#other-model-years
  11. https://www.ford.com/suvs-crossovers/escape/2017/
  12. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/escape-4-door-suv/2017

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