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Only 2 of 13 small SUVs do well in crash tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s front-end crash test found that the 2014 Subaru Forester withstood the impact the best of the 13 vehicles assessed.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s front-end crash test found that the 2014 Subaru Forester withstood the impact the best of the 13 vehicles assessed.

DETROIT — Only 2 of 13 small sport utility vehicles performed well in front-end crash tests done by an insurance industry group, with several popular models faring poorly in the evaluations.

Subaru’s 2014 Forester was the only vehicle to get the top ‘‘good’’ rating in the results released Thursday. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport was rated as ‘‘acceptable.’’ But fast-selling models such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Jeep Wrangler received ‘‘marginal’’ or ‘‘poor’’ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by auto insurance companies.

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Small and midsize SUVs, which get decent gas mileage and have the cargo and passenger space of larger SUVs, are among the fastest-growing segments of the US auto market. Sales grew 50 percent from 2005 to last year, when American consumers bought more than 2.5 million of them, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank.

The ratings are influential because many auto shoppers find them while researching vehicles on the Internet. The group says its crash tests and ratings are designed to get auto makers to improve how their vehicles withstand crashes.

The ratings are for the institute’s ‘‘small overlap’’ crash test that covers only 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end. The test was added to the insurance institute’s evaluations last year, with the institute aiming to push auto makers into bolstering the crash resistance of their vehicles.

The group’s tests are more stringent than the US government’s full-width front crash test. The institute says that in many vehicles, a crash affecting one-quarter of the front end misses the main structures designed to absorb the impact of a crash. Yet such crashes account for nearly a quarter of the collisions that cause serious or fatal injuries to people in the front seats, IIHS said.

The new Ford Escape, the top-selling small SUV so far this year, got a ‘‘poor’’ overall rating, while Honda’s CR-V, the number two seller, got a ‘‘marginal’’ rating. Toyota’s RAV-4, another big seller, hasn’t done the testing yet because Toyota asked for a delay to improve the vehicle’s structure, the institute said.

Other SUVs that received ‘‘poor’’ ratings were the Jeep Patriot, Buick Encore, Kia Sportage, and Hyundai Tuscson, the institute said. The BMW X1, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Jeep Wrangler two-door were rated ‘‘marginal.’’

Ford said in a statement that the Escape is safe because it is equipped with advanced safety features and a structure designed to manage the impact of a crash. But the company said it takes new developments in crash performance seriously.

The Forester and Outlander Sport each received the institute’s coveted ‘‘Top Safety Pick Plus’’ award because they performed well in multiple tests including the small offset crash. Many of the other SUVs, including the Escape and CR-V, won ‘‘Top Safety Pick’’ designations, but didn’t get the ‘‘plus’’ because of their performance in the small offset tests.

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