Is Toyota’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Kia’s?

Toyota and Kia's midsize SUVs both received top safety ratings from the IIHS. Lower your car insurance rates by up to 8% by installing new safety features on your vehicle.

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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...

  • The Toyota Highlander received better ratings for many of the tests IIHS performed
  • The Highlander and the Sorrento received the Top Safety Pick+ award from IIHS
  • A vehicle like the Highlander or Sorrento that receives a safety award can cost less to insure with most insurance companies

Even though midsize SUVs are generally safer than small sports cars or even sedans, some drivers can be lulled into a false sense of safety because they think their midsize SUV is the safest thing on the market.

Not all SUVs are created equal, and some may be much safer than others.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has standards they have in place for tests.

They use the tests to determine different things about a vehicle’s safety features including how safe children are, whether the vehicle has a higher rollover rate and the exact safety grade of a vehicle.

IIHS has even developed tests that will simulate real-life accidents to determine how a vehicle (and the people inside) will fare in a collision.

Compare car insurance quotes for the different vehicles you’re considering by using our free rate comparison tool above.

How Toyota and Kia Midsize SUVs Performed

The Toyota Highlander and the Kia Sorrento both performed better than average in every category. While one of the vehicles did do better on one of the tests, they both had comparable overall scores. The IIHS was able to perform all the tests required for the safety ratings.

The tests performed are:

  • crashworthiness
  • crash avoidance and mitigation

The highest rating a vehicle can get for each category is “good” while the lowest is “poor.” “Acceptable” and “marginal” are in between the two ends of ratings. Both Kia and Toyota midsize SUVs had nothing below an “acceptable” rating.


The crashworthiness of a vehicle is determined by several different tests the IIHS does. The Institute looks at the front small and moderate overlaps. They also look at the sides of the vehicle.

To help determine how the vehicle would fare during a rollover crash, they test the roof strength. While determining the crashworthiness of the vehicle is important, it is even more important to see how the people inside the vehicle would fare during a crash.

To determine this, the IIHS tests the head restraints and seats.

The Kia Sorrento and the Toyota Highlander both scored “good” on all of the crashworthiness tests. There were no notable differences between the two on any of the tests that were performed. All of the scores were achieved with standard equipment.

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Until this point, the Sorrento and the Highlander were identical in ratings. They both scored “good” for crashworthiness, but they had different scores for their crash avoidance and mitigation categories. The Highlander slightly outperformed the Sorrento.

The Highlander’s front crash prevention was rated superior with standard equipment. The headlights were rated “acceptable.” The Highlander’s auto brake helped it earn the rating because it is a standard feature.

The Sorrento had the same score for the front crash prevention. The difference lies in the auto brake is not standard equipment. The Sorrento was able to get the “superior” score with the optional equipment. The headlight score for the Sorrento was also “acceptable.”

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

Since the LATCH system is now used in all vehicles, it is not rated for safety. Instead, the ease of use of the system is rated because a system that is easier to use means more parents will use it correctly.

The LATCH system in the Toyota Highlander was rated “good.” The ease of use of the LATCH system in the Kia Sorrento was rated “acceptable.” Both vehicles had two seats that had complete LATCH systems.

The Sorrento had one additional with the tether only, and the Highlander had two additional with the tether only. The Kia Sorrento received a slightly lower rating because there was other hardware in the seat that could be confused the anchor.

While it may not seem important to have a LATCH system that is easy to use, it can be the difference between a child being safe in a crash and being killed.

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Top Safety Picks

The criteria a vehicle must meet to receive the Top Safety Pick + award is:

  • “Good” ratings in five crashworthiness tests
  • “Advanced” or “superior” in front crash prevention with or without optional equipment
  • “Good” or “acceptable” headlight rating

Kia and Toyota both hit the mark with their midsize SUVs.

They both received the Top Safety Pick + award which means they are both safe vehicles.

If you own either one of the 2017 Sorrento or Highlander, talk with insurance agents to see if you qualify for IIHS Top Safety Pick + discounts.

Even though both of the vehicles are safe, the Highlander is marginally safer than the Sorrento. The main differences lie in the auto brake features and the LATCH system.

The Sorrento that has optional features would be more comparable to the standard Highlander than a standard Sorrento would be. The only midsize SUV that outperformed either of these vehicles is the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Choosing a Safe Vehicle

A safe vehicle is always better than one that performs poorly in the categories IIHS has designated. Not only will a safe vehicle protect you if you are in an accident but it will also help you save money with discounts on your insurance.

If you are looking for a midsize SUV, don’t be fooled by thinking it has better ratings because it is bigger. 

Not all midsize SUVs are as safe as the Sorrento and the Highlander. In fact, most midsize SUVs are less safe than these vehicles because they scored among the top in their class.

Compare car insurance quotes to see how much you could save by switching providers. Enter your zip code below to get started.

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