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Midsize SUVs perform well in crash tests

Eight of nine tested earn insurance group's top rating

From Julie Vallese

Eight of nine tested earn insurance group's top rating

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In the latest round of high-speed crash tests, eight of nine SUV models received high marks. CNN's Julie Vallese reports (December 1)
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SUVs that received the highest rating in this test:
Lexus RX330
Infiniti FX
Cadillac SRX
Toyota 4Runner
Nissan Murano
Chrysler Pacifica
Honda Pilot
Mitsubishi Endeavor
What is most important when buying an SUV?
Safety features
Cargo space
Off-road capabilities
Sports utility vehicles

ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- Eight of nine midsize sport utility vehicles involved in high-speed crash tests garnered the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top rating for safety, the insurer-funded nonprofit research organization reported Sunday.

After 40 mph frontal offset crash tests into a deformable barrier, the SUVs were checked for structural damage, damage to the dummy driver and performance of the restraint systems, including seat belts and air bags.

Lexus RX 330, Infiniti FX and Cadillac SRX, Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Murano, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Pilot and Mitsubishi Endeavor were rated "good," and all but the Endeavor were named a "best pick."

A good rating in a high-speed test means a belted driver would walk away from a similar real-world crash without serious injury, according to the institute.

The Kia Sorento was rated "acceptable." Its restraint system did not control the dummy's movement very well, the institute said.

"Kia has room for improvement with the Sorento," said Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer.

In a written statement, Kia Motors said, "Our understanding is that the Sorento achieved an overall 'acceptable' rating that was only a few points short of a 'good' rating in the high-speed offset tests.

"We will be analyzing the IIHS data to determine whether there are any steps we can take that would result in an improved rating upon retesting our vehicle."

The Honda Pilot and Infiniti were tested twice. In the first tests, the air bag deployed late, resulting in high forces on the dummy's head, said Brian O'Neill, president of the institute.

Once alerted to the problem, the SUV makers changed their air bag systems and asked for a re-test. Both performed well enough the second time around to earn a best-pick rating.

Both companies are contacting consumers to fix earlier models' air bag systems.

Last week, the institute conducted low-speed tests on nine midsize SUV models and found that most of them suffered expensive damage from 5 mph crashes into various types of barriers. In response, the manufacturers told CNN that the tests measured only repair costs and that the vehicles met or exceeded federal safety standards. (Full story)

Manufacturers of models that performed well in the high-speed study said the independent tests corroborated their own findings.

"These results demonstrate the effectiveness of the institute's frontal crash test program in bringing about improvements in vehicle designs," Lund said.

"When the institute first tested midsize SUVs in 1996, none was rated good. Now, there are 16 current midsize SUV designs rated good."

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