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Hyundai Santa Fe and Volvo XC60 the Only Midsize SUVs to Receive “Good” IIHS Headlight Scores

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Of the 37 midsize SUV models tested by the IIHS, only two received a "Good" rating for their headlights

The 2016 Volvo XC60 is a luxury SUV built for safety

The Volvo XC60 was one of only two midsize SUVs to earn a “Good” rating during IIHS headlight tests

It’s no secret that SUVs are currently becoming more popular among motorists. One of the main reasons cited for this exodus is the safety benefits that midsize SUVs provide.

However, it is becoming increasingly harder for midsize SUVs to earn top safety titles, such as the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. The answer to this dilemma resides with the headlights of these utility vehicles.

After all, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that only two midsize SUVs received “Good” ratings for their headlights.


The Top Safety Pick Badge of Honor: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Earns Top Safety Pick+


Only the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Volvo XC60 received “Good” headlight ratings from the IIHS. Furthermore, both of these SUVs only receive the “Good” rating when they are equipped with available headlights systems that are included in aftermarket packages.

The XC60’s curve-adaptive HID projector headlights come included with the vehicle’s “advanced package” and “active dual xenon headlights package,” while the Santa Fe’s curve-adaptive HID projector headlights only come available with the model’s “tech package.” In fact, the Santa Fe’s base halogen headlights earned a “Poor” rating from the IIHS when they were tested.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Model Overview night driving

While the Santa Fe’s available headlights scored big points, its standard headlights left a lot to be desired

12 additional midsize models earned an “Acceptable” rating from the safety organization. 12 more SUVs earned a “Marginal” rating for their headlights, while 11 models earned a “Poor” rating from the IIHS.

On the whole, luxury midsize SUVs performed better when it came to headlight ratings. Twice as many luxury models earned “Acceptable” headlight ratings compared to nonluxury models, while only three luxury SUVs received “Poor” headlight ratings, as compared to the eight nonluxury SUVs that earned the “Poor” rating.

2017 Kia Sorento Headlights

Poor headlight ratings prevented many models from earning a Top Safety Pick+ score

The 37 midsize SUVs tested had a sum total of 79 different headlight combinations. The rankings were ultimately based on the best headlights offered for each model.

Several of the midsize SUVs, such as the Kia Sorento, were docked points for the lack of visibility that their headlights produced. Meanwhile, other models, like the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, earned “Marginal” and “Poor” ratings due to the excessive glare that they created.

“Managing glare can be more challenging for taller vehicles like SUVs and pickups because their headlights are mounted higher than on cars,” IIHS senior research engineer Matt Brumbelow stated. “Better aim at the factory can minimize glare.”

According to the IIHS, 17 of the 79 headlight combinations tested earned “Poor” ratings due to excessive glare alone. This glare not only creates safety hazard for drivers, but other motorists on the road as well, especially with the higher ground clearance of SUVs.

Excessive glare is a safety concern for both drivers and their fellow motorists out on the road

The IIHS found that the best-rated headlights use high-intensity discharge (HID) lights and projector lenses. Projector headlights use one lens to spread light, whereas traditional reflectors have multiple surfaces that bounce the light produced forward.

Ever since the IIHS introduced testing for headlights, it has been harder for vehicles to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Vehicles that earn the title must have headlights that are rated either “Acceptable” or “Good.”


More Safety Titles: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Earns Top Safety Honor


Still, there is good news for midsize SUVs in terms of safety testing.

“As a group, midsize SUV headlights perform slightly better than the other SUVs and pickups we evaluated last year, and that’s encouraging,” Brumbelow explained. “Still, we continue to see headlights that compromise safety because they only provide a short view down the road at night.”


Nonluxury Midsize SUVs with “Good” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Hyundai Santa Fe

Nonluxury Midsize SUVs with “Acceptable” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Honda Pilot
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Toyota Highlander

Nonluxury Midsize SUVs with “Marginal” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Dodge Durango
  • Ford Flex
  • GMC Acadia
  • Nissan Murano
  • Nissan Pathfinder

Nonluxury Midsize SUVs with “Poor” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Dodge Journey
  • Ford Edge
  • Ford Explorer
  • GMC Terrain
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Kia Sorento
  • Toyota 4Runner

Luxury Midsize SUVs with “Good” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Volvo XC60

Luxury Midsize SUVs with “Acceptable” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • BMW X5
  • Buick Envision
  • Infiniti QX70
  • Lexus NX
  • Lexus RX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE

Luxury Midsize SUVs with “Marginal” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Audi Q5
  • BMW X3
  • Cadillac XT5
  • Infiniti QX50
  • Lincoln MKT
  • Volvo XC90

Luxury Midsize SUVs with “Poor” IIHS Headlight Ratings

  • Infiniti QX60
  • Lincoln MKC
  • Lincoln MKX

News Source: Automotive News