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

Mazda's midsize SUV received a top safety rating while Ford's midsize SUV did not. Upgrade your car's safety features to lower 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...

  • Mazda is a car company currently putting out more than one million vehicles per year
  • Ford Motor Company creates cars that can be compared to any brand in the world and hold their own
  • Since every transportation category is approached by each manufacturer, one can dedicate their attention the midsize SUV automobiles as these are gaining momentum with rapid speed
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) examines the achievements and shortcomings of each brand
  • The IIHS has been around for over half a century and works to ensure drivers are safe when putting their own and their families’ lives in trusted car makers

Midsize SUVs often get labeled as luxurious cars since they possess a wide range of features.

The terms can also be used interchangeably as the car manufacturers tend to put moderate-to-high prices on the latest models that come packing full optional equipment and customized requests.

A typical model of this kind will be family-oriented, possesses the following features:

  • state-of-the-art entertainment center
  • an adjustable seating arrangement that will facilitate transportation of six or more people
  • top-tier safety attributes

Compare car insurance rates for the vehicle you have now or the vehicle you’re considering purchasing. Our free rate tool is easy to use and may be able to help you save hundreds of dollars.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Due to a failure in the controlling stages of the manufacturing process in the past, there have been vehicles whose safety performance was sub-par, to say the least.

To prevent this issue, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts extensive assessments based on real-world situations that happen daily.

For example, the crashworthiness category is based on front moderate and small overlap crashes, side impacts, roof’s weight-to-strength ratio, and even head and neck restraints.

This way, in order to get the highest grade which is “good,” vehicles will have to demonstrate that they can protect the survival space, deploy their airbags in time to prevent head injuries, keep the driver in his place through powerful seatbelts, and more.

If any of these requirements are not met the cars could get “marginal” or “acceptable” ratings, while those that fail everything will be rated “poor,” Other categories are crash prevention and child anchors.

Crash prevention is based on a 12-mph and 25-mph test and the vehicles can be rated “basic,” “advanced,” “superior.” The standards for the child seat anchors are based on the convenience of their placement and the assessment use the same criteria as the crashworthiness.

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Mazda CX-9 Versus Ford Flex

To compare the vehicles from Mazda and Ford, the CX-9 and Flex models have been selected. Notably, Ford had models such as Edge and Explorer but these did not perform as well as Flex, hence why it was selected to verse Mazda’s CX-9.


The dominance of the Japanese craftsmanship gets established early into the comparison as Mazda gets all five “good” scores. This outpaces Ford by one perfect score since Flex had an “acceptable” rating for its front small overlap crash.

Ford’s frame was not strong enough to prevent injuries to the lower limbs of the dummy driving the car during the collision. This rating indicates that the survival space was not maintained well which can be potent in the real world.

Another issue was noted as the side curtain airbag failed to extend far enough toward the A-Pillar which caused the dummy’s head to roll into the broken glass.

Mazda demonstrated an ability to facilitate a minimum-injury environment with airbags that hold the head and neck into an immobile position that makes it impossible to get in contact with broken glass.

Additionally, Mazda won the roof’s weight-to-strength ratio with 0.65 as its score was 5.15 opposing Ford’s 4.5. Both models got the highest rank possible here, however, which means that no excessive focus should be placed on the roofs’ abilities.

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Crash Prevention and Mitigation

Mazda then went on to annihilate Ford in the crash prevention abilities. CX-90 obtained a score of six out of six points while Ford only reached one point.

This score was due to the fact that Ford had no real auto-brake features that get triggered by motion sensors, which is something that helped Mazda avoid collisions in the 12-mph and 25-mph tests.

Both vehicles required additional equipment to achieve these ratings, which further defeats the case of Ford who got the lowest “basic” rating after using additional material.

This marks the second year that Mazda achieved such an outstanding score, while it was the fifth time Ford disappointed.

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

“Acceptable” was the rating that both models were assigned to the last category. The LATCH location which was hard to find and had hardware that can be misinterpreted as an anchor caused the drop from the highest category to this one.

Sadly, this is the only assessment where Ford came close to Mazda while still being unable to take the victory.

2017 Top Safety Pick and/or 2017 Top Safety Pick+

The Top Safety Pick category is given to cars with perfect crashworthiness scores, advanced or supreme crash prevention abilities, while the Top Safety Pick Plus needs to further have acceptable or good headlights performance.

Since Mazda met all the thresholds, it is officially a Top Safety Pick Plus whereas Ford was denied either of the awards.

Although one would expect this to be a tight race, Ford Flex came short in nearly every single test that was conducted. Mazda CX-90 outperformed in crashworthiness due to small front overlap performance, crash prevention, and headlights.

Consequently, Mazda is the ultimate winner.

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