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

Mazda and GMC's midsize SUVs received top safety ratings from the IIHS, but Mazda scored higher. Safety upgrades may lower 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...

  • Mazda and GMC midsize SUVs all went through detailed safety inspections by the IIHS/HDLI
  • All of these vehicles received fairly similar ratings in most areas except for the crash avoidance and mitigation category
  • Although their ratings were very similar, Mazda produces safer midsize SUVs than GMC

Safety should be a top priority when shopping for a new vehicle. Midsize SUVs seem like extremely safe vehicles but you can’t be sure until you review their safety ratings. The safety ratings of your midsize SUV can directly affect your auto insurance rates.

Car companies are aware of this, so you simply can’t rely on them to give you accurate safety information on their vehicles because they can easily skew the data in their favor.

In order to get accurate and reliable safety ratings, shoppers should refer to the safety ratings provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) before making the decision to purchase a vehicle.

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IIHS/HLDI Safety Ratings

The IIHS/HLDI puts each vehicle through a series of tests in their vehicle research center.

In the categories of crashworthiness, crash avoidance and mitigation, and child seat anchors, each vehicle will receive good, acceptable, marginal, or poor ratings depending on how well they endure the tests.

For their front crash prevention testing, which falls under the crash avoidance and mitigation category, vehicles will receive basic, advanced, and superior ratings. The results of these tests will give the consumer a clear summary of how safe the vehicles are.

This study will focus on the midsize SUVs that have been produced by Mazda and GMC. These vehicles include the Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia, and GMC Terrain.


Crashworthiness is important because it lets you know how well the vehicle can protect its passengers if it were to be involved in a crash or collision.

Each vehicle is tested by the IIHS/HDLI to thoroughly evaluate its crashworthiness. The following categories are examined:

  • sides
  • head restraints and seats
  • roof strength
  • front small overlap
  • front moderate overlap

The Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia, and GMC Terrain all earned “good” ratings in every single category required by the IIHS/HDLI’s crashworthiness criteria.

Crash Avoidance & Mitigation

Front crash prevention and headlights are evaluated for each vehicle in order to determine crash avoidance and mitigation. This evaluation tests the vehicle’s ability to avoid collisions altogether, which would put less reliance on crashworthiness. 

The Mazda CX-9 and GMC Acadia both earned “superior” ratings for front crash prevention with indications that the ratings were earned with optional equipment. The GMC Terrain, however, only scored the “basic” rating with the same indication from the IIHS/HDLI.

For its headlights, the Mazda CX-9 obtained an “acceptable” rating for only certain trims. The GMC Acadia earned a “marginal” rating for its headlights with only certain trims while the GMC Terrain earned a “poor” rating with no other indications.

Child Seat Anchors

Many parents choose to drive midsize SUVs instead of a minivan to transport their children. If you have small children, the IIHS/HDLI evaluates the child seat anchors in every vehicle in order to see how easy it is to install child restraints with the vehicle’s hardware.

Because at least two rear seats with full Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, or LATCH, are required in most vehicles by federal law, the IIHS/HDLI makes sure that they are up to par for the installer. All three vehicles earned “acceptable” ratings for this category.

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Top Safety Pick Awards

Top Safety Pick awards from the IIHS/HDLI are only given to vehicles with incredible safety ratings. If a vehicle manages to obtain one of these awards, it’s is among the safest vehicles that the consumer could possibly purchase.

The GMC Acadia managed to snag a 2017 Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS/HDLI. The Mazda CX-9 took it a step further and earned the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award.

Unfortunately, the GMC Terrain did not earn a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS/HDLI.

Which is safer?

According to the safety ratings provided by the IIHS/HDLI, Mazda produces safer midsize SUVs than GMC. All three vehicle managed to earn “acceptable” scores for their child seat anchors and all “good” ratings for their crashworthiness.

GMC fell short when it came to crash avoidance and mitigation. Although the GMC Acadia matched the Mazda CX-9’s superior rating for front crash prevention, the GMC Terrain only earned the “basic” rating.

Neither of the GMC vehicles could reach the Mazda’s “acceptable” rating for headlights, which makes the Mazda an overall safer option than both GMC midsize SUV models.

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