Honda vs Volkswagen Midsize SUV Safety Rating Comparison: Who Comes Out On Top?

Honda safety ratings for the Pilot midsize SUV are better than Volkswagen's Atlas. Due to Honda midsize SUVs scoring higher than Nissan midsize SUVs they will generally have lower insurance rates. Honda safety ratings for the Pilot earned Top Safety Pick Plus recognition.

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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 has topped midsize SUV sales as the automaker of the best-selling crossover in 2017 midway through the year
  • The Honda Pilot was rated by IIHS and the crash test performance earned it a 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award
  • Honda received “Good” and “Superior” ratings in all crash tests and “Acceptable” ratings in other areas tested
  • After comparing the Honda Pilot with the Volkswagen Atlas, the ratings show that Honda makes the safer midsize SUV

Honda has been a top-name competitor in the US automotive industry ever since it started selling vehicles domestically in 1976.

The Honda Accord and the Honda Civic both garnered quick attention in a segment of the market that didn’t yet house much competition. This attention made way for Honda to become ranked on many lists including the 100-top Most Powerful Brands.

As a powerful brand in the car industry, Honda allows its trusted models to give it a bit of wiggle room so that it can drive profitability and still work on improving other product lines that need more attention.

Since the CR-V full-size SUV is so popular, the automaker has room to focus on designing more and producing more midsize SUVs like the Honda Pilot.

The Honda Pilot hasn’t gained as much popularity as the CR-V since 2002, but in a marketplace where compact SUVs are becoming the preference, it’s easy to see why Pilot sales are up as much as 36 percent.

Experts today are speculating that redesigned Pilots will become the top-selling SUV in the midsize segment within the next year.

If you’re comparing top midsize SUVs like the Honda Pilot and the Volkswagen Atlas that are currently being sold, you have to consider more than just style and amenities.

Compare car insurance rates between these two makes of SUV. Enter your zip code into our free comparison tool above to begin.

All of these things are important, but the features of a vehicle should never make you overlook how important safety is. Here’s information on safety ratings so that you can make an informed decision:

Understanding Vehicle Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performs tests on all models, both older and newer generations, to see how well the subjects protect people in a crash and how technology that helps prevent a crash performs.

Safety ratings and regulations help consumers buy safer vehicles and encourage car manufacturers to make better design choices.

To perform crashworthiness testing and front crash prevention testing, the IIHS has a $30 billion Vehicle Research Center.

By using state-of-the-art crash dummies, a crash test course, test labs, and other advanced video technologies, the IIHS and scientists can rate vehicles that are in crashes. Here are the tests performed in the crash hall:

  • Small overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints & seats
  • Front crash prevention
  • Headlights
  • Child seat anchors (LATCH)

After the six crashworthiness tests are performed, the vehicle will be tested in the area of crash avoidance. After all of the scores have been added up, it will determine if the vehicle is safe enough to earn a Top Safety Pick award. The ratings that can be given are as follows:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor

Front crash prevention ratings are 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

Honda has always been dedicated to quality and that shows in the Honda Pilot’s safety rating. The 2017 Pilot is a 2017 Top Safety Pick+ recipient.

After measuring the risk of injuries in a severe crash with dummy kinematics, the Pilot earned “Good” ratings on each of the six tests.

In addition to scoring well on performance in an accident, the Pilot performed well in front crash prevention because of its optional Collision Mitigation Braking System. The car earned a “Superior” rating after scoring five out of six in low-speed and high-speed autobraking.

While crashworthiness and front crash prevention are the most important areas tested, Honda didn’t excel in the other two areas.

The headlights and the child seat latch both earned an “Acceptable” rating because of the glare of the low beams and the location of the latches. Even with the “Acceptable” ratings, the Honda Pilot has received the highest in safety honors.

Safety Ratings for the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas


  • 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 – Marginal (only certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors Ease of Use – Marginal

The Volkswagen Atlas is a new model that just recently hit the market, but you wouldn’t think that by looking at its safety ratings. Most newer models don’t perform well enough to compete against seasoned models, but the Atlas does.

With all “Good” ratings in crashworthiness and a “Superior” five-point score in crash prevention, the Atlas scores mimic the Pilot.

The only area where there’s much of a difference in performance is with the headlight testing and the child seat latch testing. In each area, the Atlas received only “Marginal” grades.

The biggest complaint was that the high beams provided minimal visibility around curves. The latching systems performed well but too much force was needed to attach the anchors.

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Top Safety Pick+


It’s hard to compare two vehicles with such similar ratings, but if you look at the overall safety picks, it’s fair to say that the Honda Pilot is the winner.

It was a 2017 Top Safety Pick+ recipient, and the Atlas only earned the Top Safety Pick award.

The main difference is that Top Safety Pick+ recipients must earn a headlight rating of “Acceptable” or higher.

Is Honda safer than Volkswagen for midsize SUVs?

The overall top safety pick would be the Honda Pilot. Based off of this information, Honda manufactures a safer midsize SUV than Volkswagen. Each contender has a lot of respect in the industry.

Before you buy any vehicle, no matter the style, make sure to get online quotes. Compare premiums and safety ratings at the same time to see how the two factors are related. Enter your zip code into our free comparison tool below to get started.

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