"Disparities like this one" prompted the IIHS to begin testing both the driver and passenger side to verify that reinforcements were being added symmetrically.
The 2018 Ford Escape has received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's worst rating among seven small SUVs in a comparison of passenger-side small overlap crash performance.
The IIHS had tested only the driver-side in the small overlap scenario for several years. Engineers eventually noticed that some automakers appeared to be ignoring the passenger side when adding structural reinforcements to improve test performance.
Demonstrating the practice, Ford's 2018 Escape was rated 'acceptable' on the driver side but 'poor' when the same impact was flipped to the passenger side. Intrusion in the latest test measured 10 inches at the upper door-hinge pillar, double the measurement from the driver-side test, while the passenger door sill was pushed four inches laterally into the occupant compartment. Measurements suggest injuries to the passenger's right hip would be likely in a similar real-world accident.
"Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side," said IIHS senior research engineer Becky Mueller. "Manufacturers shouldn't shortchange protection for front-seat passengers."
Most of the small SUVs received a 'good' rating including the BMW X1, Mitsubishi Outlander, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Jeep Compass. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport received a 'marginal' rating, compared to an 'acceptable' rating in the driver-side impact.