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

Mazda and Nissan's midsize SUVs received top safety ratings from the IIHS, but Mazda scored higher. Safety features can 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...

  • Mazda and Nissan midsize SUV models were all thoroughly evaluated and received safety ratings from the IIHS/HDLI
  • All of the Mazda and Nissan midsize SUV models have been proven to be very safe options
  • The midsize SUV models provided by Nissan and Mazda all earned identical ratings in every category except for crash avoidance and mitigation

When it’s time to shop around for a midsize SUV, the buyer should put some effort into researching how safe the vehicle is before purchasing.

When the buyer knows how safe their vehicle is, they can anticipate the positive or negative change in their auto insurance costs.

The safety information that a shopper is given directly from a car company may be skewed in their favor in order to sell more of their vehicles. So, how do you avoid being tricked into buying a vehicle that isn’t as safe as it seems?

You could start with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Use our FREE tool to compare cheap car insurance quotes. Enter your ZIP code above now!

How the IIHS/HDLI Determines Safety Ratings


The IIHS/HLDI provides accurate and reliable safety ratings for each vehicle. They offer this information for free to the public so consumers can refer to their rating before committing to a vehicle.

In their vehicle research center, the IIHS/HDLI tests each vehicle’s child seat anchors, crashworthiness, crash avoidance, and mitigation.

For each of these categories, vehicles will receive the following grades depending on how well they endure their testing:

  • good
  • acceptable
  • marginal
  • poor

Front crash prevention is the only area that receives basic, advanced or superior ratings under the crash avoidance and mitigation category.

In this particular study, the IIHS/HDLI ratings will be used to compare the Mazda and Nissan midsize SUV models. These vehicles include the Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Murano, and Mazda CX-9.

Results for Crashworthiness

Protecting its passenger in the event of an impact is one of the most important safety features that a vehicle can have.

Crashes are never anticipated, so it’s good to know that your vehicle will protect you and your passengers if it ever happens.

The IIHS/HDLI tests each vehicle’s sides, front small overlap, front moderate overlap, roof strength, head restraints, and seats.

The Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Murano, and Mazda CX-9 all earned “good” ratings for every testing area in crashworthiness.

Results for Crash Avoidance & Mitigation

In order to test each vehicle’s crash avoidance and mitigation, the IIHS/HDLI evaluates their front crash prevention and headlights because they help the driver to avoid collisions.

If a vehicle has the proper crash avoidance and mitigation features, the passengers don’t have to rely solely on its crashworthiness.

All three vehicles earned “superior” ratings with optional equipment for front crash prevention, but there’s a bit of a divide between makes when it comes to headlights.

The Mazda CX-9 obtained an “acceptable” rating while the Nissan Pathfinder and Murano both earned “marginal” ratings for their headlights. The IIHS/HDLI indicated that all of the headlight ratings were earned for only certain trims.

Results for Child Seat Anchors

This category focuses on each vehicle’s LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This is particularly important for parents will small children that still require car seats or other restraints.

LATCH is required in most vehicles by federal law, so the IIHS/HDLI is sure to check every vehicle’s hardware to test it’s ease-of-use when installing a car seat.

The Nissan Murano, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Pathfinder all earned “acceptable” ratings for their child seat anchors.

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Top Safety Pick Awards from the IIHS/HDLI

Depending on how well each vehicle performs in each safety testing area, the IIHS/HDLI awards vehicles with one of their Top Safety Pick awards.

In order to obtain a 2017 Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must obtain “good” rating for all five crashworthiness areas and at least an “advanced” rating for front crash prevention.

For a 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award, the vehicle must earn the same ratings plus an “acceptable” or “good” rating for their headlights.

2017 Top Safety Pick awards were given to the Nissan Pathfinder and Nissan Murano. A 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award was given to the Mazda CX-9.

Is Mazda or Nissan safer?

Although all three vehicles are very safe and earned the same ratings for most testing areas, the Nissan Pathfinder failed to meet the “acceptable” rating set forth by the Mazda CX-9.

The “marginal” ratings earned by the Nissan Pathfinder and Murano were the only factors that prevented them from earning a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Because of the difference in their headlight ratings, it has been proven that Mazda produces safer midsize SUV models compared to Nissan.

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