SUVs are advertised as rugged, but few have bumpers designed to withstand a minor bump in a low-speed collision according to a recent study. Eight of nine new midsize sport utility vehicles earned poor or marginal ratings for bumper performance in 5 mph crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In this group, only the 2003 Honda Pilot is equipped with bumpers that resisted major damage.
The Pilot earned an acceptable rating. The 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor, 2003 Nissan Murano, and 2004 Lexus RX 330 are rated marginal. The 2003 Toyota 4Runner, 2004 Chrysler Pacifica, 2003 Infiniti FX35, 2004 Cadillac SRX, and 2003 Kia Sorento are rated poor.
The Institute’s series of four bumper tests includes front- and rear-into-flat-barrier plus front-into-angle-barrier and rear-into-pole impacts. The tests assess how well bumpers can prevent damage in 5 mph impacts simulating the fender-bender collisions that are common in commuter traffic and parking lots. A good bumper system should absorb the energy of these minor impacts and protect expensive body panels, headlamp systems, and other components from damage.
“The manufacturers of these SUVs try to create a rough-and-tough image for them, but their bumpers are flimsy,” said Adrian Lund, the Institute’s chief operating officer. “Vehicles shouldn’t sustain major damage in a minor collision at a fast walking speed.”
Average damage per test ranged from about $400 for the Pilot to more than $1,600 for the Sorento and SRX. Of the 33 current midsize SUV designs the Institute has tested for bumper performance, 23 are rated poor, 6 are rated marginal, and 4 are acceptable. None is rated good.
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