Small SUVs do poorly in headlight tests

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Not one of the 21 small SUVs earned a “good” rating in headlight tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, according to the group that represents the insurance industry. And the headlights for more than half of the vehicles were rated “poor.”

The IIHS said only the 2017 Ford Escape and 2016 Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-3 received “acceptable” ratings on headlight performance.

Five others got “marginal” scores: the 2016 BMW X1, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Twelve were rated “poor”: the 2017 Kia Sportage and 2016 Audi Q3, Jeep Renegade, Buick Encore, Jeep Wrangler, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Honda HR-V, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Patriot and Subaru Forester.

The insurance industry group said there are 47 different headlight combinations available among the 21 SUV models that it tested. It called the small SUVs “even more deficient when it comes to lighting than the midsize cars that were the first to be rated earlier this year.”

“Manufacturers aren’t paying enough attention to the actual on-road performance of this basic equipment,” said Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer, in a statement. “We’re optimistic that improvements will come quickly now that we’ve given automakers something to strive for.”

The insurance industry group said it will only give its top safety pick award to vehicles that are rated good or acceptable in headlight tests for 2017 models, meaning only four of the 21 SUVs models that were tested recently would have qualified this year.

The IIHS said the issue of headlight performance “merits attention because about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or around dawn or dusk.

“Headlight performance in today’s vehicles varies widely,” the insurance group said. “Government standards are based on laboratory tests, which don’t accurately gauge performance in real-world driving.”

The insurance industry group said its measures “how far the light is projected as the vehicle is driven on five approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

“Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured in each scenario,” the group said. “A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can’t earn a rating higher than marginal.”

Twitter: @Keith_Laing