Is Toyota’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Mazda’s

Toyota and Mazda's midsize SUVs both received top safety ratings, but Mazda scored slightly higher. Lower your car insurance rates by up to 8% by installing new safety features.

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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...

  • Toyota has two vehicles in the midsize SUV class in 2017, and Mazda has one vehicle in this class
  • While one of the Toyota SUVs in the midsize class had very high safety ratings, the other Toyota SUV model had rather low safety ratings in many areas
  • One Toyota SUV and the Mazda SUV in the midsize class received the Top Safety Pick+ award for excellence in safety from the IIHS

There are almost two dozen midsize SUVs on the market today that you may have reviewed before narrowing down your options to the Toyota and Mazda models.

When you test drive the two Toyota midsize SUVs and the Mazda SUV for 2017, you may love how secure and confident you feel behind the wheel as you cruise down the road.

The combination of an SUV’s large size, elevated height over the road, and comfortable features can easily make you feel safer on the road than you actually may be.

Rather than relying on your personal feelings regarding safety, you should spend a few minutes analyzing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety test results for 2017.

Some safety features in a midsize SUV are designed to help you avoid being in an accident altogether, and others are designed to reduce the severity of an accident or to protect you and your passengers from injuries.

You may be thinking about buying the Mazda CX-9, the Toyota Highlander, or the Toyota 4Runner.

While each of these vehicles is loaded with innovative and thoughtful safety features, you may be surprised by how different their safety ratings are in some of the areas tested by the IIHS.

What the Toyota and Mazda Safety Test Results Tell Buyers

Rather than simply rank each of the midsize SUVs on the market in 2017 in a broad way, the IIHS has carefully tested each vehicle in eight important safety areas.

These eight safety tests are clustered into three descriptive categories so that you can more easily determine their significance. For most of the safety tests, the IIHS has given each vehicle one of the following ratings:

  • Good
  • Average
  • Moderate
  • Poor

The Front Crash Prevention test under the Crash Avoidance and Mitigation safety category is the single exception to this. The IIHS has given each vehicle one of these ratings for this specific test:

  • Superior
  • Advanced
  • Basic


Five of the eight IIHS safety tests fall under the Crashworthiness category, and this is because they examine how well the SUV can protect occupants from injuries in a collision situation.

These five tests are for Side, Roof Strength, Front Moderate Overlap, Head Restraints and Seats, and Front Small Overlap.

The 2017 Toyota Highlander and the Mazda CX-9 had the highest possible grade of “good” in all five of these areas. 

On the other hand, the Toyota 4Runner only received a “marginal” grade for the Front Overlap category, and it had “good” results for the remaining four test areas in this group.

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Two of the IIHS safety tests tell you more about how well a specific SUV model could mitigate or avoid accidents altogether.

These are the Front Crash Prevention safety test and the Headlights safety test, and they are grouped under the Crash Avoidance and Mitigation section.

For the Front Crash Prevention test, the Highlander and the CX-9 had a “superior” result, and the 4Runner was not tested in this area. For the Headlights test, the Highlander and the CX-9 were given an “average” score, and the 4Runner was given a “poor” score.

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

Child seat anchors are latched onto safety seats to keep little ones safe and secure on the road. The IIHS uses the LATCH safety test to help you determine how easy it is to use these latches or anchors correctly for maximize child safety.

The Highlander received a “good” mark in this area, and the CX-9 had an “average” mark. The 4Runner’s LATCH score was “marginal.”

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

Now that you are aware of the individual test results for each of these three vehicles from Toyota and Mazda, you may be curious to know which of these vehicles were specially recognized for their safety capabilities.

While the Mazda CX-9 ranked one level below the Highlander in the Headlights area, both of these SUVs were honored as recipients of the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

In order to receive this award, the vehicles had to get higher ratings in the Front Crash Prevention test and Headlights test, and they needed a “good” score for each of the Crashworthiness safety tests. The Toyota 4Runner was not honored with an IIHS safety award in 2017.

Is Toyota safer than Mazda in 2017 for midsize SUVs?

The Toyota Highlander is only slightly safer than the CX-9 based on 2017 IIHS safety test results, and the primary area where the Highlander is improved is in the Headlights area. Both of these vehicles rank far better in many safety areas than the Toyota 4Runner.

Auto insurance on your new SUV is a major expense, and you need to be aware of what this expense is before you make your final buying decision. 

Safety factors may be reviewed by SUV insurance companies when you get a premium quote, and you can see that the safety ratings for some of these models are substantially different.

Spend a few minutes requesting and reviewing online insurance quotes today before you purchase your new SUV. Enter your zip code below to get started.

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