Is Honda’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Ford’s?

Honda's midsize SUVs received top safety ratings while Ford's SUV scored low by comparison. Safety features may reduce your car insurance rates by up to 8%.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Honda is known for producing compact cars and sedans but has put more focus on SUV classes in the recent years
  • The Honda CR-V is a top-selling compact SUV, but the Honda Pilot is competing in the midsize market
  • The 2017 Honda Pilot midsize SUV is a Top Safety Pick+ but the model struggled with safety ratings initially
  • Honda’s midsize SUV earned “Good” ratings in crashworthiness and a “Superior” rating in Front Crash Prevention
  • If you compare the Ford Flex to the Pilot, the Pilot has a significantly better IIHS safety rating


Honda was initially recognized for selling top-notch motorcycles and economical compact cars. After the success of the Honda Civic, the Japanese car manufacturer started focusing more on modern vehicles with more standard features.

This new focus gave way to the development of the Honda Accord in 1976.

Amazingly enough, the Accord is what made way for the automaker to compete in the SUV market years later. As more and more consumers showed interest in larger vehicles, Honda began developing SUVs.

It first started with the Honda CR-V, which remains a top-seller in the small SUV segment. Years later, in 2003, Honda released the midsize eight-seat SUV called the Pilot built on the platform of a Honda Accord.

The Honda Pilot has received a refreshed style and new interior features. These additions have made it the best-selling midsize crossover on the marketing in 2016.

The Pilot released in 2017 impresses with a sleek design, but looks aren’t everything. You should also consider how the vehicle will perform in a crash. Reviewing safety ratings is critical before you make such a large investment.

Compare car insurance quotes to see how the prices differ depending on which vehicle you request rates for. Enter your zip code above to get started.

Understanding IIHS Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute are both nonprofit educational organizations that have a mission to reduce losses that stem from car accidents.

The mission is to perform crash tests on all vehicles sold to the public to measure how risky it is to drive or occupy a specific model when it’s in a collision.

After the IIHS tests vehicles in the Vehicle Research Center, the data is collected and the dummies’ ‘injuries are recorded. The scientists will look at how the panels hold up, how much intrusion there is, and how likely injuries to occupants are.

The six crash tests and additional crash avoidance and mitigation tests that are performed are as follows:

  • Small overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Front crash prevention
  • Headlights

You might think that safety ratings aren’t a huge deal, but to the automaker they are. Being selected as a Top Safety Pick+ will get a model major recognition in the marketplace.

If there’s an area where a car does not perform well, the vehicle can be improved the following year. Here’s a list of the ratings a car can receive:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Front Crash Prevention Ratings – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

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Safety Ratings for the 2017 Honda Pilot

  • Small overlap front – Good
  • Moderate overlap front – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head restraints & seats – Good
  • Front Crash Prevention – Superior (with optional equipment)
  • Headlights – Acceptable (only on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors – Acceptable

The Honda Pilot has received the highest award possible from IIHS in 2017. While the vehicle did struggle on safety test performance between 2003 and 2015, notable improvements were made in 2016.

The 2017 Pilot redesign has earned all “Good” ratings in crashworthiness and a “Superior” front crash prevention score when equipped with the optional Collision Mitigation Braking System.

The Pilot still has room for improvement when it comes to headlight and child seat latch ratings.

While most brands struggle to get a perfect score in this area, the Pilot received an “Acceptable” rating in both areas because the low beams have some glare and the anchors for latching are hard to maneuver around.

Safety Ratings for the 2017 Ford Flex

  • Small overlap front – Acceptable
  • Moderate overlap front – Good
  • Roof strength – Good
  • Side – Good
  • Head restraints & seats – Good
  • Front Crash Prevention – Basic (with optional equipment)
  • Headlights – Marginal (only on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors – Acceptable

The 2017 Ford Flex was not so successful when it was tested by IIHS. The vehicle did not earn any Top Pick awards and failed to impress in crashworthiness or crash mitigation tests.

While the vehicle did earn “Good” ratings, it ranked as “Acceptable” in Small Overlap Front tests. It also earned only one out of six points in front crash prevention for a “Basic” score when equipped with optional Collision Mitigation with Brake Support.

Headlight and child seat latching performance wasn’t much better. The Ford Flex earned “Marginal” scores for the headlights on higher trim levels and “Acceptable” scores for the LATCH’s each of use. Nothing much stood out about this new midsize SUV from Ford.

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Top Safety Pick+

To be a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn no less than “Good” ratings in crash tests and “Advanced” ratings in crash prevention tests. The Ford Flex did not meet the requirements in 2017 but the Honda Pilot did.

The 2017 Pilot was named a Top Safety Pick+.

If you compare the Honda Pilot and Ford Flex, Honda definitely produces the safer model. Not only is it an award winner, it excelled in almost all tests performed.

If you’re thinking about buying a Honda Pilot, make sure to price the cost of insurance. If you compare premiums, you’ll see the rates for the Honda would be lower than the rates for the Ford. Enter your zip code below to compare for yourself!

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