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The Safest SUVs on the Market Right Now

By Shawn Furman | May 4, 2023

Safety is a top priority when searching for a new car, even if it means paying just a little more for one. With safety technology rapidly improving over the past decade, crash tests have become more rigorous, and safety system testing has been integrated into safety rating considerations.

Even new vehicles without the latest available safety systems today would have been among the safest cars, trucks, and SUVs several years ago. That is a good thing since that means there are very few new vehicles today that are truly unsafe.

Nevertheless, not all vehicles are created equally. With SUVs being so popular, we are going to take a deep dive into the safest SUVs on the market right now. Before doing that, however, it is important to look at how new vehicles are tested and check out a few changes that have taken place for 2023.

Here's a look at the safest SUVs on the market right now:

1. 2023 Lexus UX
2. 2023 Toyota Venza
3. 2023 Hyundai Palisade/Kia Telluride
4. 2023 Nissan Pathfinder
5. 2023 Nissan Rogue
6. 2023 Lincoln Nautilus
7. 2023 Subaru Ascent
8. 2023 Toyota Highlander
9. 2023 Volkswagen ID.4
10. 2023 Toyota RAV4 & Prime
11. 2023 Acura MDX
12. 2023 Acura RDX
13. 2023 Volvo XC90 & Recharge
14. 2023 Mazda Crossovers (CX-9, CX-5, CX-50, & CX-30)

2023 Lexus UX


The 2023 Lexus UX is perfect for those looking for a small SUV that combines luxury, affordability, economy, and of course, safety. You can get yourself an entry-level model for under $37,000, but with that also comes 42 combined MPG, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 181-horsepower hybrid powertrain, and surprisingly agile handling.


In addition to earning a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, the NHTSA has also awarded it five-out-of-five stars in its own crash tests, proving that subcompact SUVs can be safe too. Aiding its high safety scores is its long list of standard safety features like adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Browse 2023 Lexus UX listings here.

2023 Toyota Venza


Despite just missing the IIHS’ top safety award, the Toyota Venza is still a Top Safety Pick and earns a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, one of only a handful of 2023 SUVs on this list to be rated by both entities. Like the Lexus UX, the Venza is a hybrid. It falls short of the UX’s fuel economy, but it does so because it is larger and has a more powerful 219-horsepower output.


Along with its standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, passengers will also enjoy wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen. A larger 12.3-inch touchscreen is available if you climb the trim levels.

Browse 2023 Toyota Venza listings here.

2023 Hyundai Palisade/2023 Kia Telluride


The Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride go hand-in-hand for many reasons. They share a platform, they share a powertrain, they share many of the same dimensions, and they are two of the largest crossovers on our list. Both also happen to have earned Top Safety Pick+ awards from the IIHS for 2023. Neither has been rated by the NHTSA for 2023, but they were both given five-out-of-five stars last year, leading us to believe that not much should change for the current model year.


They also share one of the most comprehensive lists of standard safety features on the market with even more features as you climb the trim level ladder. Lane-keeping assist, forward automatic emergency braking, driver attention monitoring, a rear-seat alert system, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic alert all come on both vehicles’ most basic models.

Browse 2023 Hyundai Palisade/2023 Kia Telluride listings here.

2023 Nissan Pathfinder


With the Nissan Murano falling off of IIHS’ award list for 2023, the Nissan Pathfinder continues to carry the midsize SUV torch for the Japanese automaker. Unlike other Nissan crossovers, the Pathfinder sports a 284-horsepower V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Its styling is thoroughly modern, and its third row gives it some added capacity.


Like the Telluride and Palisade, the NHTSA has not given the Pathfinder a rating for 2023 yet. The IIHS has, though, awarding it a Top Safety Pick+ designation. That is accompanied by a long list of standard driver-assistance features like driver attention monitoring, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and both forward and reverse collision warning.

Browse 2023 Nissan Pathfinder listings here.

2023 Nissan Rogue


The Nissan Rogue also makes our list of the safest SUVs on the market, representing the small SUV class for Nissan. Unlike the Pathfinder, the Rogue has been given a five-star safety rating by the NHTSA and is accompanied by an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. It shares nearly all of its standard safety features with the Pathfinder.


A tiny but powerful turbocharged 1.3-liter engine pairs with a continuously variable transmission and gives buyers the choice between front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. A comfortable ride, excellent fuel economy, class-leading cargo space, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a user-friendly infotainment system make the Rogue a go-to for anybody in the market for a compact crossover.

Browse 2023 Nissan Rogue listings here.

2023 Lincoln Nautilus


The Lincoln Nautilus is not only overshadowed by its larger sibling, the Navigator, but it is also overshadowed by its luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, BMW X5, and Audi Q7. It may not quite reach the level of luxury that its rivals offer, but it stands strong as one of the safest SUVs in its class with a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA and as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.


Combining one of the lowest starting prices in the class, a comprehensive standard safety features list, a comfortable ride, and a peppy powertrain, the Nautilus is a well-rounded luxury option. Seating for five can be seen as a disadvantage in the midsize SUV class, but the deletion of a third row also frees up some cargo space that would otherwise be missing.

Browse 2023 Lincoln Nautilus listings here.

2023 Subaru Ascent


Both the Subaru Forester and Subaru Outback have long been known for their safety, but the Ascent is the safest for both the automaker and the midsize SUV segment. Both the IIHS and NHTSA give the Ascent top marks with the former giving a Top Safety Pick+ award to the three-row crossover. Standard safety features like adaptive headlights, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward automatic emergency braking help it get there.


In addition to Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Ascent buyers are treated to an 11.6-inch touchscreen, a newly updated infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, a spacious cabin, and plentiful cargo space. It may not be the most engaging vehicle to drive, but most buyers will be perfectly content with the Ascent otherwise.

Browse 2023 Subaru Ascent listings here.

2023 Toyota Highlander


The Toyota Highlander follows in the Subaru Ascent’s footsteps with a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Like the Ascent, the Highlander comes standard with lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, forward automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. It also adds a rear-seat reminder system for good measure.


Unlike the Ascent, Toyota has dropped its previously standard six-cylinder engine in favor of a more fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 265 horsepower. Also unlike the Ascent, you can choose a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive layout. Beyond that, buyers are treated to a standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a snug third-row seat, just in case.

Browse 2023 Toyota Highlander listings here.

2023 Volkswagen ID.4


Electric SUVs are becoming more popular, but the Volkswagen ID.4 leads the charge on the safety front. The IIHS has awarded it a Top Safety Pick+ award for 2023, and the NHTSA has given it a five-star safety rating. Its list of driver assistance features is headlined by adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, and pedestrian detection.

ID.4 pricing starts right around $40,000. That is quite reasonable for an electric vehicle of any kind for its size, and it comes with a 208-mile electric driving range, a 12-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and just over 30 cubic feet of storage space. Its clean, minimalistic interior is nice, but the central touchscreen controls most vehicle systems, leaving out traditional buttons.

Browse 2023 Volkswagen ID.4 listings here.

2023 Toyota RAV4/Prime


The Toyota RAV4 is one of the best-selling crossovers each year for multiple reasons. It is practical, affordable, reliable, and does most things that most buyers need it to do. It is a great everyday vehicle. The Toyota RAV4 Prime does most of the same things, but it has the advantage of being a plug-in hybrid with better fuel efficiency and 42 miles of electric range.


Both are also Top Safety Picks for 2023 and even though the Prime has not been rated by the NHTSA yet, the regular RAV4 has. It has been given a perfect five-out-of-five star rating. The RAV4 Prime comes standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, two driver assistance features that are only optional on the regular RAV4. Both models come with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

Browse 2023 Toyota RAV4/Prime listings here.

2023 Acura MDX


Unfortunately for the Honda faithful, the Pilot has not made our list. However, its corporate cousin, the Acura MDX, has. Not only does it earn a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, but it is also a Top Safety Pick+ winner, in part, because of standard safety features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, road-departure mitigation, and pedestrian detection.


Its outright luxuriousness is not quite up to par with rivals from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo, but it has plenty to keep buyers happy at its $50,745 starting price. A 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a smooth powertrain keep both driver and passenger comfort at a maximum.

Browse 2023 Acura MDX listings here.

2023 Acura RDX


It can be annoying when your little brother imitates you, but Acura should be smiling from ear to ear knowing the RDX has earned the same top safety scores and awards given to the larger MDX. The RDX can do many of the same things the MDX can do, but it comes in a smaller package, at a smaller price, without the third row.


It also comes with most of the same standard driver assistance features as the MDX: Adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking. Its 272-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine is even almost as powerful. With a smaller wheelbase and that much power, it feels peppier too.

Browse2023 Acura RDX listings here.

2023 Volvo XC90/Recharge


Volvo is another automaker known for building safe vehicles. Most of the vehicles in their lineup are, but the XC90 and XC90 Recharge rule the roost. Both have earned Top Safety Pick+ designations as well as five-start safety ratings from the NHTSA. Both offer an extensive standard safety features list that includes blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assist.


Even the regular XC90 now benefits from a new mild-hybrid powertrain. For even more fuel efficiency, power, and over 30 miles of all-electric range, the XC90 Recharge is a great plug-in hybrid option. Filled with technology, space, and luxurious touches, the three-row XC90 lineup is hard to beat, even with the midsize luxury SUV segment overflowing with stiff competition.

Browse 2023 Volvo XC90/Recharge listings here.

2023 Mazda Crossovers (CX-9, CX-5, CX-50, & CX-30)


It may sound strange to include each crossover SUV that an automaker offers in a list like this, but the current Mazda SUV lineup is quite impressive. The three-row Mazda CX-9, the compact Mazda CX-5, the new Mazda CX-50, and the subcompact Mazda CX-30 all earn Top Safety Pick awards from the IIHS, and both the CX-9 and CX-5 earn five-star safety ratings from the NHTSA.


We did leave out the Mazda MX-30 as it is only sold in California, and we have to leave out the new, highly anticipated CX-90 since it has not yet hit showrooms. Beyond these two exceptions, Mazda has built an exceptionally strong lineup that goes even deeper than each model’s stellar safety score.

Each model is fun to drive, with Mazda’s philosophy about being one with your vehicle shining through to even the largest model. All are attractive on both the inside and outside. None is the most spacious in their respective segments, but they each offer value in other areas. You really have to drive them all to get it, but once you do, it is easy to understand what makes all of them so special.
Browse Mazda CX-5/Mazda CX-9/Mazda CX-30 listings here.

Honorable Mentions

Just because we cannot keep on talking about safe SUVs all day does not mean there are other great options out there. The following SUVs did not make our list simply because we do not have the space to keep going and because the NHTSA has not rated any of these vehicles for 2023 yet. They all remain great picks if your top priority is safety.

Honda and Lexus have two entries each. Both the Honda CR-V and Honda HR-V are Top Safety Pick+ winners. Both are spacious for their size and emphasize practicality over most other things. The Lexus NX and Lexus RX follow suit, with both models earning Top Safety Pick+ awards as well. They will scratch your luxury itch, but they will also cost more than both Hondas.

Another luxury SUV that may satisfy your desire for some luxury is the Infiniti QX60. It too earns a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and competes directly with the midsize Lexus RX. The QX60 may not have the stellar reputation that its Japanese rival has, but it offers less shouty styling and plenty of reasons for you to consider buying one.

If you want a different flavor altogether, you may want to consider the Ford Explorer. It earns a Top Safety Pick award for 2023 after being named a Top Safety Pick+ for 2022. That may sound like a bummer, but it is still a great honor for one of the most popular midsize SUVs of all time.

Finally, two electric SUVs go to battle: The 2023 Subaru Solterra and the 2023 Tesla Model Y. Both earn Top Safety Pick+ honors, but the Model Y is doubtless the better-known of the two. The Solterra is all-new for the 2023 model year, but if you are a long-time Subaru fan, the Solterra should not feel out of place within the lineup.

Both of these electric SUVs have their advantages and disadvantages, but it will be up to you to decide which one is better for your budget, your taste, and your driving preferences.

Safety Ratings and How They Work:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are the two premier organizations with it comes to vehicle safety rankings. The NHTSA rates vehicles based on front, side barrier, and side pole crash tests, as well as rollover tests. Rankings are based on a one to five-star rating, with five stars being the best.

The IIHS conducts crash tests as well, but their rankings cover more areas. They conduct frontal and side crash tests like the NHTSA, but they also test head restraint capability, front crash prevention, headlights, seat belt reminders, and LATCH child seat anchors. The vehicles that stand out across these tests can earn Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards based on their performance.

Rather than a five-star system, the IIHS awards vehicles a good, acceptable, marginal, or poor rating based on their performance. They also award front crash prevention equipment a score of basic, advanced, or superior, based on each system’s performance, superior being the highest rating of the three.

NHTSA Crash Test Ratings:

The NHTSA’s crash test ratings are based on several criteria, including front crash test, side barrier crash test, side pole crash test, and rollover crash test scenarios. The overall performance of a vehicle is then evaluated with up to five stars being awarded for the best-performing vehicles based on the combined results.

Frontal Crash Test Scenario:

For the NHTSA’s frontal crash test, an average-size adult male and a small adult-size female are placed in the driver’s seat and passenger seat respectively with their seatbelts buckled. Their would-be injuries are then evaluated after a 35-mile-per-hour crash into a fixed barrier. Comparisons are then made between the crashed vehicle and another vehicle weighing 250 pounds more or less.

Side Barrier Crash Test Scenario:

The same crash test dummies are used for the side barrier crash test as are used in the frontal crash test. Injury evaluation of the head, chest, abdomen, and pelvis is conducted after a 3,015-pound moving barrier crashes into the side of the test vehicle at 38.5 miles per hour

Side Pole Crash Test Scenario:

For the side pole crash test, the NHTSA removes the adult-size male from the driver’s seat and instead, moves the small adult-size female to the driver’s seat. The test vehicle is then pulled into a pole at 20 miles per hour at a 75-degree angle on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The extent of the head, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and lower spine injuries is then evaluated.

Rollover Resistance Test Scenario:

Rollover resistance is determined by measuring the impact that a severe maneuver would have on a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour. Essentially, it is a measure of the “top-heaviness” of the vehicle in question.

IIHS Crash Test Ratings and Changes for 2023 Awards:

For new vehicles to earn a Top Safety Pick award in 2022 they had to earn good ratings in their front, side, and roof strength tests. They also had to earn advanced or superior ratings in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention testing. Lastly, they had to have at least acceptable headlight ratings.

To earn a Top Safety Pick award for 2023), the IIHS requires a good frontal crash test rating, a good or acceptable updated side crash test rating, a good or acceptable headlight rating, and an advanced or superior daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention rating.

A 2023 Top Safety Pick+ award requires even better results: A good rating in the IIHS’ front crash tests, a good rating in their updated side crash test, good or acceptable headlight ratings, advanced or superior daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention ratings, and advanced or superior nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention ratings.

For a comprehensive look at each IIHS testing procedure) and all of their rating protocols, you can check out the IIHS’ test protocols and technical information website.

Front Crash Test:

Each IIHS frontal crash test includes a moderate and small overlap test. The moderate overlap test involves a vehicle that is crashed into a stationary barrier at 40 miles per hour at a 40% driver’s side overlap. An average adult-size male test dummy is placed in the driver’s side seat and a small-size adult female is placed in the rear seat behind the driver.

Gasoline, transmission fluid, and oil are drained from vehicles with an internal combustion engine prior to the crash test. Electric vehicles are charged to around 12.5% battery life with a minimum of 25 miles of range prior to testing. Hybrid vehicles’ batteries are charged to the manufacturer’s minimum recommended state of charge prior to their testing.

The small overlap test is conducted under most of the same conditions as the moderate overlap frontal test, but rather than a 40% overlap, the test is conducted at a 25% overlap, closely in line with the centerline of the driver’s seat. Additionally, the female test dummy is removed from this test. Vehicle preparations for conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles remain the same.

Side Crash Test:

The IIHS updated its side crash protocols in October of 2022, creating the Side 2.0 test. The largest differences between the Side Impact 1.0 and 2.0 tests include the increase in the weight of the moving deformable barrier and the speed of impact of the moving barrier.

Weight has been increased from 1,500 kg - about 3,300 pounds - to 1,900 kg - about 4,190 pounds. Additionally, the speed of impact has also been increased from 31.1 miles per hour to just over 37 miles per hour. The moving barrier still makes impact on the driver’s side of the car at a 90-degree angle.

Just like in the frontal impact tests, electric vehicles are tested at 12.5% charge with a minimum of 25 miles of driving range. Hybrids are tested at the manufacturer’s minimum recommended state of charge. Vehicles that run on gasoline are drained of that gasoline and filled with a fluid infused with purple dye. Other fluids are drained on an as-needed basis to meet weight requirements for the test.

Headlight Rating:

Headlight rating is a relatively new metric awarded by the IIHS, but it is an important factor in determining what vehicles earn Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards in tangent with other crash tests. Headlights are tested on a straightaway, a 150-meter radius right curve, a 150-meter radius left curve, a 250-meter radius right curve, and a 250-meter radius left curve.

Both high and low beam illumination levels are measured on each of these road conditions, and the combined test results produce a rating of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. In addition to levels of illumination, headlight systems like adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, and glare produced for oncoming traffic by the headlights being tested are factored.

Front Crash Prevention Rating:

Even though vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention ratings are no longer considered when awarding Top Safety Picks for 2023, vehicle-to-pedestrian prevention systems are. Updated in August of 2022, acceptable or superior nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention performance has been added as a criterion to earn a 2023 Top Safety Pick+ award.

Autonomous emergency braking systems are measured by simulating an adult crossing the street at a 90-degree angle to the moving vehicle, a child crossing the street at a 90-degree angle from behind an object, and an adult near the road or on a sidewalk that runs in the same direction.

A vehicle’s ability to avoid or mitigate a pedestrian crossing the street is measured at 12.4 miles per hour and at nearly 25 miles per hour. The speed of the vehicle is increased to almost 25 miles per hour and to just over 37 miles per hour to conduct the avoidance test for a pedestrian along the side of the road.

Notable Vehicle Changes:

With these most up-to-date changes from the IIHS, some of 2022’s safest SUVs no longer earn IIHS top honors for 2023. American automakers are no longer represented in the small SUV category with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Compass, Ford Bronco Sport, Buick Encore GX, Ford Escape, and Lincoln Corsair missing out on Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards for 2023.

Several Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis models earning either award for 2022 have also dropped off the list altogether for 2023. These include the Kia Seltos, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Venue, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sorento, Genesis GV60, Genesis GV70, Genesis GV80, and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Several Volvo models and each Audi model from the 2022 list have also disappeared from the list of 2023 IIHS award winners across each SUV category. Just remember that each model no longer on the 2023 list of IIHS award winners has not suddenly become unsafe. More stringent crash testing simply means that 2023 award winners stand out more with their truly superior safety results.

Each vehicle below conforms to the IIHS’ newest safety standards for 2023.