IIHS downgraded its driver-side small overlap front crash test rating.

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety details the new Jeep Wrangler JL’s Marginal rating for the institute’s driver-side small overlap front crash test. Jeep redesigned it for the 2018 model year. During the test, the Wrangler tipped over, forcing the institute to downgrade the SUV’s rating even though it performed well in the crash.

IIHS downgraded the Wrangler’s rating to Marginal because the tipping over could present “additional injury risk beyond what the standard criteria are intended to measure,” according to the institute’s press release. “A vehicle tipping onto its side is not an acceptable outcome,” IIHS added. The Wrangler did protect the driver’s space and the dummy, controlling its movements throughout the crash.

The institute notes that partial rollover crashes present additional dangers, especially for a vehicle like the Wrangler that features a removable roof and doors, which raises the risks of a passenger being ejected from the vehicle. The removable roof also means the Wrangler lacks side curtain airbags.

Gallery: 2020 Jeep Wrangler JL Crash Test

IIHS allows manufacturers to test some vehicles that have previously earned a Good rating in the test, which is what happened in the Jeep’s case. However, IIHS audits these tests, and it picked the Wrangler. The SUV tipped over in the audit test, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles asked if the outcome was related to how IIHS engineers rigged the vehicle to the crash propulsion system. IIHS agreed to a second test using a different method, though it ended with the vehicle tipping on its side again. FCA’s crash test didn’t have the Wrangler tipping over.

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It’s an unfortunate outcome for the Jeep. The 2020 Wrangler earned Good ratings for the moderate overlap front crash test, the side crash test, the roof strength test, and the head restraint and seat test. However, it did perform poorly in the headlight tests. The driver-side small overlap front crash test attempts to simulate one of the deadlier types of car accidents that happen on the road, and tipping over doesn’t help.

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Jeep Wrangler tips over during IIHS crash test

The 2019-20 Jeep Wrangler 4-door earns a marginal rating in the driver-side small overlap front crash test because it tipped over onto its passenger side after striking the barrier.

The midsize SUV, which was redesigned in 2018, was evaluated in three separate driver-side small overlap crash tests, one by Fiat Chrysler as part of the Institute's verification test program and two at the Institute's Vehicle Research Center. In both tests conducted by IIHS, the Wrangler rolled onto its passenger side after striking the test barrier.

The Wrangler performed well by the normal metrics used to evaluate performance in the driver-side small overlap test. The driver's space was maintained well, and the dummy's movement was well-controlled. However, the partial rollover presents an additional injury risk beyond what the standard criteria are intended to measure. A vehicle tipping onto its side is not an acceptable outcome for a frontal crash, and as a result, the Wrangler's overall rating was downgraded to marginal.

Rollovers — even partial ones like those that occurred in the Wrangler tests — are especially dangerous crashes, in part due to the risk of complete or partial ejection. This is a particular concern in the Wrangler, which has a roof and doors that can be removed. The Wrangler also lacks side curtain airbags designed to deploy in a rollover to keep occupants inside. It is not required by regulation to have side curtain airbags because of its removable roof.

The redesigned Wrangler was eligible for a driver-side small overlap rating based on manufacturer testing because the model's previous generation earned a good rating in the test. Under the verification program, IIHS assigns a rating based on video of the manufacturer test and other documentation.

In the test that Fiat Chrysler submitted, the Wrangler did not tip over.

IIHS conducts audit tests of some vehicles in the verification program to ensure the integrity of the program. The Wrangler was selected for one of these audit tests.

After the vehicle tipped over in the audit test, Fiat Chrysler questioned whether this outcome was related to the method that IIHS engineers had used to attach the vehicle to the crash propulsion system. IIHS agreed to conduct a second test using a different method, which was approved by Fiat Chrysler. The second test also ended with the vehicle tipping on its side.

The Wrangler earns good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof and head restraint evaluations.

The Wrangler is available with an optional vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating. In Institute track tests, it avoided collisions at 12 and 25 mph. It is not available with a pedestrian front crash prevention system.

The SUV earns poor ratings for both its base halogen headlights and premium LED projector headlights.