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New SUV Roof Strength Ratings; Where Does Your Vehicle Rank?

Rollover accidents have always been a safety concern for owners of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), and a new SUV roof strength rating system was unveiled last week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 12 small SUVs were evaluated in the first round of testing. So, which vehicles came through with flying colors?

The Good: Four small SUVs received an IIHS rating of "Good" under the new roof strength crash tests: Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester, Honda Element, and Jeep Patriot. This "Good" rating means that these four vehicles have roofs that are at least twice as strong as required under the federal government's minimum safety standards for vehicles.

The Bad: On the other end of the spectrum in the first round of SUV roof test safety ratings, the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson brought up the rear with "Poor" grades.

The So-So: The middle ground was occupied by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Mercury Mariner, which all received a rating of "Marginal" from the IIHS. Slightly better were the Suzuki Grand Vitara, Chevrolet Equinox, Pontiac Torrent, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, and Mitsubishi Outlander, all deemed "Average" in terms of roof strength. 

An IIHS News Release announcing the new roof strength testing standard also discusses rollover accidents: "More than 10,000 people a year are killed in rollovers. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing the risk that people will be injured by contact with the roof itself. Stronger roofs also can prevent occupants, especially those who aren't using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof has deformed."