Driving

STUDY: 2022 safest SUVs and car safety features to look for when buying

The safest SUV for 2022 is the Tesla Model Y, followed by the Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Ascent.

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Americans love SUVs — SUVs and crossovers claim around 50% of the market share — and it’s because they make drivers feel safer. But are SUVs really safer than sedans? Research shows that SUVs are safer than small cars and even pickup trucks. In collisions, passenger deaths are almost 60% higher in cars compared to SUVs.

The Zebra compiled a list of SUVs with the best safety features and crash responses. Whether you’re looking for the safest SUVs for families or for off-roading, this list can help you narrow down your search. Before beginning your car shopping, keep in mind that a larger vehicle means a higher price tag. Check out this calculator to determine your car-buying budget.

Key findings:

  • The safest SUV for 2022 is the Tesla Model Y. This also makes the Tesla Model Y the safest luxury SUV and safest electric SUV.
  • The safest small SUV is the Mazda CX-30.
  • After Tesla, the Subaru Ascent takes second place as the safest midsize SUV for 2022.
  • The Chevrolet Trailblazer is the most economical of the safest SUVs on the list.

Keep reading for the list of the safest SUVs for 2022 and tips for buying an SUV with safety features in mind, or jump down to the infographic for a quick review.

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 Are SUVs safer than sedans

Methodology

Using the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)’s top safety pick report, The Zebra identified the safest SUVs by size groupings for 2022. We narrowed down the list to the 22 safest SUVs overall using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s 5-Star Safety Ratings, which score responses in frontal, side and rollover crashes. 

Our analysis showed the safest 2022 SUV to be the Tesla Model Y, the only SUV with five-star safety ratings all around for all models. Most of the remaining SUVs on our list have the same safety ratings — a five-star overall safety score, five stars for frontal and side crash safety rating and four stars for rollover ratings. However, the last three SUVs on the list dropped down to four stars for the frontal crash but still have an overall safety score of five. The exact order is determined by IIHS ratings for crashworthiness, crash avoidance, seat belts and child restraints.

We included the starting manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) as well as the average annual insurance costs for each vehicle. Keep in mind that MSRPs are just a suggestion from manufacturers. Dealerships price their vehicles themselves as the market fluctuates, and we are seeing significantly higher sale prices in today’s auto market. Check out the tables below for a quick breakdown of the safest SUVs by size.

1. 2022 Tesla Model Y

An electric, luxury SUV earns the number-one spot as the safest SUV by both IIHS and NHTSA. The Tesla Model Y has Good ratings all around for crashworthiness and crash avoidance. It has front, seat-mounted, knee and curtain airbags. With rear, side and front cameras, it has 360-degree visibility up to 820 feet, allowing for blind-spot monitoring, active lane control and adaptive cruise control with Autopilot.

It seems its only downfall, according to IIHS, is that the lower child seat anchors are deep in the seat, affecting the ease of use — but it still has a rating of Acceptable. For the long-range trim, the headlights also have a lower rating of Acceptable due to some glare with the low beams.

  • Safety score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $62,990
  • Average annual insurance cost: $3,000

2. 2022 Mazda CX-30

The 2022 Mazda CX-30 tops out on all safety and crash tests and even scores a Good+ rating for child seat anchors. The CX-30 earns the plus rating because it comes with an extra LATCH position and is easy to find and use.

The CX-30 comes with Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE safety technology, which uses radars and cameras to recognize potential hazards, avoid collisions and reduce crash severity.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $22,200
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,392 (2020)

4. 2022 Ford Bronco Sport

The Ford Bronco Sport passed all crash tests with Good to Superior ratings for structure damage, roof strength and passenger injury. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety suite comes standard on all models, which includes a pre-collision assist system, automatic high beams, blind-spot alerts and lane-keeping alerts and control. Some models also have adaptive cruise control to adjust speed to automatically maintain a safe following distance.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $28,265
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,730

5. 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi’s 2022 Outlander is one of the safest SUVs on the list with almost perfect ratings — Good and Superior ratings all around for crashworthiness and crash prevention. The 2022 Outlander comes with advanced safety technologies like blind-spot warnings and assist, rear auto emergency braking and frontal collision mitigation. 

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $26,095
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,767 (2021)

6. 2022 Nissan Murano

With Good collision and crash prevention ratings, the Nissan Murano also earned five stars in front and side crashes and four stars in rollovers. The Murano has no negative remarks except for a seat belt alert rating of Acceptable due to a 90-second duration and no visual alerts for the second row. The child seat anchors and tethers earned a Good+ rating since all three seats in the second row have the ability to hold a child seat.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $33,210
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,794

7. 2022 Hyundai Palisade

The Hyundai Palisade knocks it out of the park for side and front crashworthiness and crash prevention — even the headlights have no negative remarks. 

However, the seat belt reminders in the second row have a slow initiation time and duration (at least 60 seconds). There are three child seat placements in the Limited model, which has three rows and captain chairs in the second row. Two out of three lower anchors, including one in the third row, are deep in the seat.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $33,600
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,675

8. 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer

The Chevrolet Trailblazer is the most affordable of the safest SUVs on the list. In crashes, the Trailblazer has advanced to Superior ratings from the IIHS. All models have overall Good ratings, with some headlights coming in as Acceptable due to low beams offering fair visibility compared to the high beam’s Good visibility rating. Again, the lower child seat anchors are deep in the seat, making them harder to reach.

  • Safety score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $21,800
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,728

9. 2022 Volkswagen ID.4

The Volkswagen ID.4 is a newer electric SUV from the manufacturer, previewed in the summer of 2021 and beginning production in January 2022. It does very well in crashworthiness and prevention, with only a slight deduction for the Pro model’s headlights. There are some visibility issues on the right side for low beams and on the left side for the high beams.

It comes with Volkswagen’s IQ.DRIVE safety technology, which uses cameras, sensors and radar to warn drivers of objects in their path. Similar to other manufacturers’ safety technologies, it features auto braking and lane correction, among other features.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $41,230
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,668

10. 2022 Audi Q5

The Audi Q5 is a midsize luxury SUV with Good crash ratings all around. The only test that earned less than a Good rating is the headlights on the Premium trim levels. The high beams work well with good visibility, but the low beams offer fair visibility, resulting in an Acceptable rating. The Q5 can have all of the common safety features, like electronic stability control, advanced air bags and brake assist. 

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $43,300
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,879 (2020)

11. 2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

The Audi Q5 Sportback is almost the same as the standard Q5 but is not hybrid like the Q5. There are some other slight differences, but safety is not one of them. The crash ratings are similar, and the Sportback also lacks some headlight visibility like the standard version. 

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $50,100
  • Average annual insurance cost: $2,534

12. 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe does well in crashworthiness and crash prevention but has some faults in headlight design. In some models, the low beams offer inadequate visibility, and the high beams offer fair visibility. In other models, the low beams offer good visibility but create excessive glare, while the high beams have inadequate visibility. As for lower child seat anchors, both are too deep in the seat, making them harder to reach.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $27,200
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,609 (2021)

13. 2022 Cadillac XT6

The Cadillac XT6, a midsize luxury SUV, is one of IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+ choices. It earned Good crashworthiness but did drop down to Acceptable for structural damage, cage safety and driver leg/foot injury in frontal collisions. The XT6 comes with two headlight variations, both of which have Acceptable ratings due to some glares. The child seat anchors are also Acceptable.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $48,595
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,944

14. 2022 Volvo XC60

With Good crashworthiness and crash prevention, the Volvo XC60 only lacks in headlights visibility and car seat anchors. The lower anchors are difficult to maneuver around and the headlights have low visibility and glare in some situations.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $42,650
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,677 (2021)

15. 2022 Volvo XC90

The Volvo XC90’s safety report shows only one negative remark and a couple of Acceptable ratings. Similar to many other vehicles on this list, the headlights and child seat anchors are merely Acceptable. The XC90 is built with a collision warning system with full auto brakes. However, in the parallel adult test (think of a bike rider in front of a car), the SUV’s warning was delayed — issued at 1.1 seconds before impact. Otherwise, the XC90 earned Good overall ratings in collision testing.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $50,900
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,794 (2021)

16. 2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge

The Recharge is the hybrid version of Volvo’s XC90. With few significant differences between the two vehicles’ designs, the safety ratings are exactly the same, down to the headlight and child seat anchor issues and the delayed collision warning.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $64,800
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,848

17. 2022 Mazda CX-5

As a small SUV, the Mazda CX-5 has overall Good crashworthiness and Advanced to Superior crash prevention. While performing very well in collisions, some safety features are lacking on the CX-5. Three out of eight trim levels’ low and high beams scored Fair on the driver’s side of the vehicle only. Additionally, the seat belt reminder’s low volume results in a Marginal score. Though there are three child seat anchors, they are too deep in the seat.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $25,900
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,585 (2021)

18. 2022 Volvo XC40

The Volvo XC40 earns five stars in front and side crashes — with Superior front crash prevention but an Acceptable overall evaluation for side collisions. In the side collision test, the structure was marginally damaged, resulting in slight injury to the driver’s torso and pelvis and the rear passenger’s torso. Overall, the XC40 still earns five stars from NHTSA in side crashes.

The 2022 model has similar safety features as the other SUVs on the list, such as brake assist, lane departure warnings and blind-spot monitoring. However, the seat belt reminders earned a Poor evaluation due to slow initiation time, duration and low volume. The lower child seat tethers are also difficult to maneuver around anchors.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $35,100
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,848

19. 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class is another Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS. The overall evaluation of frontal crash prevention in vehicle-pedestrian collisions has a Basic rating — the lowest on the list — for all seven models, due to failing to slow and no warnings issued in some situations. While the child seat anchors have Good ratings, the headlights on three trim levels have some visibility issues around curves.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $56,150
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,829 (2018)

20. 2022 Mazda CX-9

Although the IIHS ratings are fairly good for the 2022 Mazda CX-9, the NHTSA rated this SUV with four stars in frontal crashes. The CX-9’s seat belt reminders also have a low volume, earning the SUV a Marginal rating for seat belts. However, headlights and child seat anchors all look great for the Mazda CX-9.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $35,630
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,804 (2021)

21. 2022 Toyota Highlander

Most of the Toyota Highlander’s trim levels have some slight headlight issues, such as glare, but still have good visibility. The seat belt reminders on the Highlander are also Marginal due to slow initiation times and short durations. The SUV performed almost perfectly in crashworthiness, though NHTSA did give it four stars for frontal crashes.

The Highlander can come with many of the popular safety features seen in today’s vehicles, such as pre-collision systems, blind-spot monitoring and parking assist with automatic braking.

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $35,405
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,634 (2021)

22. 2022 Acura MDX

The 2022 Acura MDX is almost perfect in terms of IIHS safety ratings. With Good and Superior ratings for crashworthiness and crash prevention, the only aspect to point out is that the second-row middle seat’s tether anchor is hard to find. Otherwise, the child seat anchors received a Good+ overall score since there is an extra LATCH position. 

  • Safest score: 5 stars
  • Starting MSRP: $48,000
  • Average annual insurance cost: $1,766 (2021)

Top Safety Pick+ safest small SUVs

SUV

Overall safety rating

Frontal crash safety rating

Side crash safety rating Rollover crash safety rating

2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer

5 5

5

4

2022 Ford Bronco Sport 5 5

5

4

2022 Mazda CX-30 5 5

5

4

2022 Mazda CX-5 5 5

5

4

2022 Volvo XC40 5 5

5

4

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander 5 4

5

4

2022 Hyundai Tucson 4 4

5

4

2022 Nissan Rogue 4 4

5

4

 

Top Safety Pick+ safest mid-size SUVs

SUV

Overall safety rating

Frontal crash safety rating

Side crash safety rating Rollover crash safety rating
2022 Tesla Model Y 5 5

5

5

2022 Hyundai Palisade 5 5

5

4

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe 5 5

5

4

2022 Nissan Murano 5 5

5

4

2022 Subaru Ascent 5 5

5

4

2022 Volkswagen ID.4 5 5

5

4

2022 Audi Q5 5 5

5

4

2022 Audi Q5 Sportback 5 5

5

4

2022 Cadillac XT6 5 5

5

4

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 5 5

5

4

2022 Volvo XC60 5 5

5

4

2022 Volvo XC90 5 5

5

4

2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge 5 5

5

4

2022 Mazda CX-9 5 4

5

4

2022 Toyota Highlander 5 4

5

4

2022 Acura MDX 5 4

5

4

2022 Acura RDX 5 4

5

4

2022 Genesis GV80 5 4

5

4

 

5 things to look for when assessing an SUV’s safety

If you’ve got your eye on a new SUV that’s not on this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a safe vehicle. You can analyze any vehicle’s safety with the following five factors, though there may be others to consider as well.

1. Government crash-test ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is one of two entities that assess and report on vehicle safety. NHTSA conducts tests and analyzes the damage from full-frontal crashes, side collisions and rollovers. Each collision type is scored on a five-star scale.

In all NHTSA crash tests, a dummy or two are secured with seat belts, and their injuries are evaluated along with the vehicle damage upon impact. This makes for a good attestation of how well the seat belts and air bags protect passengers.

2. Insurance-industry crash-test ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also runs front, side and rear collision tests at a much more detailed level. In addition, it also measures roof strength. IIHS also evaluates collision warnings between both cars and pedestrians, headlights and seat belts and child restraints. The IIHS scale for frontal crashes ranges from Good to Acceptable, Marginal or Poor, and crash prevention from Superior, Advanced and Basic.

3. Rollover resistance

Taller SUVs are inherently more top-heavy, which makes it easier for these vehicles to roll over. Smaller SUVs with a lower center of gravity are less likely to roll over. NHTSA also has a five-star rating system for Rollover Resistance Rating (RRR). The rating combines static stability factors (SSF) with the NHTSA rollover test for an accurate measurement.

4. Child safety

All new vehicles have the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). It’s a system that combines tether anchors located behind the top of the seat and lower seat belt anchors. This system is safer than just relying on the seat belt to hold car seats in place. However, the system doesn’t work the same in all cars. The IIHS rates vehicles on this to determine if the LATCH systems are difficult to use.

5. Vehicle recalls

It’s a good idea to research recalls for the SUV you’re looking at. While many recalls do not affect a car’s daily use or safety, some can and should be fixed immediately. For example, a malfunctioning chip that controls auto brakes in a vehicle could be a significant safety issue. It’s not to say the vehicle wouldn’t be driveable, but that’s a feature that does help prevent accidents.

 Tech safety features to look for in new SUVs

5 essential tech safety features

As the driver, some safety features might be more important to you than others. Determine what’s non-negotiable for you. A few of the most common safety technologies found in modern cars include:

1. Anti-Lock brake system (ABS)

Anti-lock brakes come standard in new vehicles today. While it’s not something you necessarily need to ensure an SUV has since it should, it’s important to know what it does. The ABS prevents tires from locking during a hard or sudden stop. Without this, the car could spin out, causing a crash.

2. Accident avoidance

Several different safety technologies aid in accident avoidance, all of which rely on cameras, sensors and radar to detect obstacles. Some of these are newer features becoming increasingly popular in passenger vehicles.

  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC): Automatically adjusts the car’s speed when cruise control is engaged to keep pace with other drivers.
  • Collision warnings: An alarm that sounds first when a potential collision is detected, meaning another vehicle or person is too close to the vehicle.
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB): Automatic braking to avoid a collision after the collision warning sounds.
  • Blind-spot detection: An alarm that alerts when another vehicle is approaching a blind spot.
  • Lane departure warnings (LDW): An alarm that alerts when the vehicle veers out of the traffic lane it’s supposed to be in. It only alerts if the turning signal is not used.
  • Lane-keeping system (LKS): Automatic corrections to ensure the car stays in the correct lane after the lane departure warning sounds.

3. 360-degree views

In 2022, it’s impossible to find a new car without at least one camera. That’s because as of 2018, all new vehicles made or sold in the U.S. are required to have a backup camera. However, most cars made today have several cameras or sensors to ensure the different collision prevention features can function properly.

A 360-degree camera system provides a real-time visual of a car’s surroundings. This comes in handy for parking in tricky situations and works in conjunction with different accident avoidance features like blind-spot detection.

4. Tire pressure sensors (TPMS)

It’s been well over a decade since tire pressure sensors were made standard in vehicles, so they might be easy to overlook. These sensors alert you when there is a tire pressure issue, so you don’t have to constantly check the pressure manually. The correct PSI pressure for your vehicle should be on a sticker inside the driver’s door.

5. Adaptive headlights

Smart adaptive headlights are a newer technology for the U.S. After several years, NHTSA determined in early 2022 that adaptive headlights will permit safer night driving by better illuminating roadways. Manufacturers were given the green light to begin production on this feature.

Adaptive headlights use smart technology to send light in different directions, like brightening roadways directly ahead of the vehicle while dimming lights that could blind other oncoming drivers

If you plan to purchase a new car not on this list of 2022’s safest SUVs, you’ll want to compare car insurance rates before starting the car-buying process.

 SUV driving safety 101

Sources: IIHS | NHTSA

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebra a year. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's Resource Center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.

Susan's work has been cited by the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm, BuzzfeedCBS, Yahoo, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.