Is Hyundai’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Nissan’s?

Hyundai and Nissan's midsize SUVs both received top honors for their safety ratings, but Hyundai was rated slightly higher. Safety features can reduce your car insurance rates by up to 8%.

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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...

  • Although midsize SUVs seem like the safest vehicles on the road, some are much safer than others
  • Vehicle safety ratings range between Good and Poor and are assigned to various parts of the vehicle
  • When deciding what vehicle is right for you, factors like the vehicle’s ability to both avoid and withstand a collision are involved
  • Each year, Top Safety Pick and a Top Safety Pick+ awards are afforded to the safest vehicles on the market

Often, people who drive midsize SUVs have been placed into a false sense of security by the reputation that SUVs hold as safe, sturdy vehicles.

While it’s true that their larger frames and heavier weight makes them more stable in the event of a collision, not all SUVs were created equally, and some are far safer than the others.

Compare car insurance quotes for the SUVs you’re considering purchasing. Use our free rate comparison tool above to get started for free with no obligation.

The Faces of Safety Ratings

For the most part, safety ratings are tested and established by an organization called the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS functions as a nonprofit organization for the purpose of reducing the amount of highway crashes each year, working together with the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

As a scientific organization, the IIHS uses a modernized version of the scientific method to establish vehicle safety in a variety of areas. These are split into:

  • Human factors – covers teenage and inexperienced drivers, impaired operation of vehicles with drinking or drugs, road fatigue, and the use of safety belts.
  • Vehicle research – focuses on crash avoidance and crashworthiness, often using physical crash tests to establish safety ratings.
  • Environmental research – assesses the designs of the road themselves, namely in minimizing or eliminating roadside hazards.

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Hyundai vs. Nissan

In the debate about 2017’s vehicle ratings, Hyundai’s main four-door SUV is the Santa Fe, compared to the Nissan Murano. Secondarily, Hyundai offers the Sante Fe Sport, while Nissan also sells the Pathfinder.

Vehicle safety ratings are placed on a scale moving from Good to Acceptable, leading to Marginal and then Poor ratings. These vehicles are judged by crashworthiness, crash avoidance, and the effectiveness of child safety LATCH.


The Hyundai Sante Fe received a Good rating in every area of testing, proving resilient in tests designed to gauge the vehicle’s safety when it makes crashes into a rigid or flexible barrier at 40 miles per hour.

The Sante Fe Sport and Nissan’s Murano and Pathfinder, similarly, received Good ratings in all relevant areas.

Crash Avoidance

The Sante Fe once again receives top marks, rated as having superior crash avoidance technology and optimal headlight systems. Inversely, the Sante Fe Sport’s headlights are rated as Poor, the lowest possible rating.

In both areas, Nissan’s midsize SUVs score lower in total avoidance and receive Marginal ratings on their headlights. Testing for these ratings is based on how quickly the vehicle can brake to a full stop, as well as how effective their headlights are.

Child Seat Anchors

This area, based mostly on ease of use when it comes to clipping the buckles to fasten a car seat into the vehicle, is judged as Acceptable for all four makes from both Hyundai and Nissan.

2017’s Top Safety Picks

In order to qualify for either the 2017 Top Safety Pick or 2017 Top Safety Pick+, vehicles are required to meet strict criteria. They must receive Good ratings in five areas of crashworthiness, as well as advanced or superior crash prevention ratings.

For the Top Safety Pick+, the vehicle must also have an Acceptable or Good headlight rating.

The Hyundai Sante Fe received the Top Safety Pick+, and is considered the safest midsize SUV released in 2017.

The Sante Fe Sport, Nissan Murano, and Nissan Pathfinder similarly received the 2017 Top Safety Pick award, with each vehicle from Hyundai and Nissan proving quite safe.

In 2017, Hyundai’s safety ratings are better than Nissan’s, with the same amount of vehicles released but an additional Top Safety Pick+.

This rating resulted from Hyundai’s superior crash avoidance systems, and although both vehicles are considered equal in crashworthiness, superior headlights make the Sante Fe far safer.

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