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

For midsize SUV safety ratings, Nissan and Volkswagen were both rated as Top Safety Picks. The Nissan Murano wins out slightly for its child seat latching system.

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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...

  • Japanese manufacturers like Nissan dominate the market in midsize SUV sales
  • Nissan and Toyota tied in 2017, each holding nine percent of the market share in best-selling SUV sales
  • While sales trends would indicate that Nissan is a trusted manufacturer, it’s still important to check safety ratings
  • IIHS publishes safety ratings for all vehicles based on their crashworthiness and crash prevention systems
  • When comparing the Nissan Murano to the Volkswagen Atlas, the Murano is the overall safer choice

Nissan has been a top-rated automaker in the automotive industry for decades. As an innovator in the marketplace, Nissan introduced cars like the Datsun, the Maxima, the Frontier, and the all-electric Leaf that all topped on sales charts in their respective segments of the market.

Nissan has focused on not only improving designs but finding cost-efficient ways to do so. This focus is what keeps Nissan in mention as a top car maker.

The Nissan brand has been synonymous with compact cars, sports cars, and light pickups, but the climate is changing as more car buyers show their interests in buying efficient and roomy midsize SUVs.

With the introduction of the Nissan Murano in 2003, Nissan once again started topping sales charts in another category. A category that has quickly tapped into other segments and grown into one of the highest selling one’s today.

Compare car insurance quotes between these two makes of vehicles. Enter your zip code into our free rate comparison tool to find the best rate for the coverage you need.

As you’re shopping the market for a midsize SUV that’s both affordable and possesses the features that you would appreciate, you can’t ignore how important safety is. Cars can have rave reviews and still not perform well in a crash.

It’s your job to review actual unbiased safety reviews to find the right midsize SUV for your family. If you’re comparing the ratings of Nissan models to Volkswagen models, here’s what you should know:

Understanding Safety Ratings

Each and every automaker that sells vehicles in a retail setting must conduct its own safety testing. Both Nissan and Volkswagen put cars through rigorous testing on vehicle glass, paint, and other components to ensure they are durable.

While this testing does help prevent recalls and complaints, it’s not the same type of testing done by non-profits like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS was founded by three major insurance associations in an effort to improve highway safety, vehicle crashworthiness and crash prevention strategies.

The association now uses a scientific approach to help form new vehicle safety laws and perform crash tests for research. The idea is that the tests will help identify where the focus needs to be placed when a car is being designed.

The information gathered from crash tests performed in the Vehicle Research Center are turned into widely consulted and unbiased ratings.

These ratings are public information and they can be used by consumers to help them make buying decisions and also by manufacturers to improve vehicle design in the future. There are fully stocked test labs, test tracks, and crash test dummies all used to perform these tests:

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

Every vehicle that’s tested is given individual ratings in each area. The ratings are essentially grades based on the overall performance of the specific test. How the vehicle scores in each area is what will dictate whether or not the car is a Top Safety Pick.

Here are the grades that you will see:

  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Marginal
  • Poor
  • Front Crash Prevention Only – Superior, Advanced, or Basic

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Compare Safety Ratings between Nissan and Volkswagen for Midsize SUVs

Cars are tested and given ratings by model and by trim level. Since all cars have different design elements that can affect the structure of the vehicle, there’s no way to say everything that hits the production line through any specific car maker is safe.

You would have to look at the safety ratings of related models to do sufficient research.

When you’re comparing Nissan and Volkswagen, it’s best to look at two of the top-performing options on the product line. Nissan has the Murano, which been around nearly 15 years, and Volkswagen has the Atlas, which was just released this year.

As you compare the two models, here are the safety ratings to consider:

Safety Ratings for the Nissan Murano

  • 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 on certain trims)
  • Child Seat Anchors – Acceptable

The Nissan Murano has been a Top Safety Pick since 2015. This four-door midsize SUV has earned the highest ratings possible in all areas of crashworthiness.

The Murano also received a five out of six for a “Superior” rating in front crash prevention when equipped with the optional Forward Emergency Braking system. These are the scores that earned the award.

There is room for Nissan to focus on improvement for next year’s model. The Murano only received a “Marginal” score in headlight testing. IIHS found that visibility with the high beams on the left side was poor.

The “Acceptable” score for child seat latches isn’t the best, but it’s higher than most vehicles receive for ease of use.

Safety Ratings for the 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 has a lot to compete with, especially since the 2018 model is in its first year of production.

If you were to consider how the Murano performed when it was first introduced, you’d be amazed by the fact that the Atlas earned “Good” ratings in all areas of crashworthiness.

Atlas also received a five out of six with a “Superior” rating in front crash prevention when equipped with optional Front Assist (with Autonomous Emergency Braking).

Like many models, the Atlas struggled with its headlight rating and child seat rating.

In both areas, the vehicle earned a “Marginal” grade primarily because visibility was inadequate on curves and the latches are difficult to use and attach. Even with its struggles, the Atlas is a Safety Top Pick.

2017 Top Safety Pick

Vehicles can only be designated as Top Safety Picks when they earned sufficient ratings. The car must rank “Good” in all areas of crashworthiness and “Advanced” or “Superior” in front crash prevention.

Both the Nissan Murano and Volkswagen Atlas made these marks but did not score high enough on headlight ratings for the Top Safety Pick+ designation.

When comparing the Nissan Murano and the Volkswagen Atlas, it’s hard to say which model is safer because the ratings are so similar.

The only area where Nissan clearly wins is when testing the child seat latching system. Because of this, Nissan is safer than Volkswagen for midsize SUVs.

If you want to see how much each of these cars cost to insure, get online comparison quotes today and see if there’s much of a price difference. Enter your zip code into our free rate comparison tool below to get started.

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