Which Is Better for Safety - SUV or AWD?

I need to get a new family car soon. In an ideal world, I would get a mid-size AWD SUV as I believe it would be good for safety. However, I've been wondering if I should just prioritise one (i.e. AWD or SUV) and save the money.

I'm currently leaning towards the Forrester for AWD SUV, or Rav4 for 2WD SUV, or Impreza for AWD hatch.

For the sake of comparison, all the models below are entry level for their category. I know that each model has their own safety features (e.g. AEB, sensors, etc). But I feel those things don't help much when a big crash actually happens (think collision with a Mack or roadside barrier). I suppose I'm already answering my own question… but would still like to know what you guys think!

2WD SUV

Honda CR-V Vi (7.6L/100km) ~ $28.3k
Toyota Rav4 GX auto (6.8L/100km) ~ $32k
Nissan X-Trail ST auto (7.9L/100km) ~ $34.7k
Mazda CX-5 Maxx auto (6.9L/100km) ~ $33k

AWD SUV

Subaru 2.5i Forrester (7.4L/100km) ~ $34.7k
Nissan X-Trail ST 4WD (8.3L/100km) ~ $34.7k
Mazda CX-5 Maxx AWD (7.4L/100km) ~ $36k
Honda CR-V VTI-S AWD (6.3L/100km) ~ $36.5k
Toyota Rav4 GX Hybrid AWD (4.8L/100km) ~ $37.5k

AWD Hatch (for comparison)

Subaru Impreza 2.0i (7L/100km) ~ $23k

Got the prices and fuel consumption figures from this site (https://www.carshowroom.com.au/). Would love to know of a better source/reference if there is one.

EDIT: Question clarification - Would it be safer to drive my family in an AWD sedan/hatch or a 2WD mid-size SUV? (All other things equal, e.g. ANCAP ratings, active safety features, etc.)

Poll Options

  • 4
    SUV
  • 60
    AWD
  • 3
    Other (Let me know what in the comments!)

Comments

  • +1 vote

    How shit of a driver are you?

    AWD will help you avoid skidding and crashing, which IMO is a big issue for even good drivers.

    If you're interested in crash safety, look at crash safety ratings, the type of vehicle is not really important. If hitting a barrier is what you're scared off, you're likely better in a lighter car than a big heavy SUV.

    Personally, I'd get the Impreza if those are your options. I think SUVs are massively overrated for what they are.

    • +5 votes

      AWD will help you avoid skidding and crashing, which IMO is a big issue for even good drivers.

      Only if you push it far enough to skid.

      • +9 votes

        This, do people seriously not realise AWD only does something under power?

        • +5 votes

          Vast majority does not know this.

          Some people believe swerving is a good reflex.

          Vast majority believe that mid turn braking increases safety.

      •  

        Wet road or ice. Oil on the road. It's not a panacea, but it certainly helps.

        •  

          It only helps in these situations if you are trying to accelerate.

          •  

            @brendanm: I brake pre turn, keep on low gear with some throttle on accelerate at the apex.

            AWD when used correctly is great. I watched a few cars very narrowly avoid disaster on a negatively banked turn in the wet. They were clearly understeering at a slower speed. I was going faster and on semi slicks!

  • +6 votes

    Dont need a SUV for families. Boot space on some SUV and particularly CUV is laughable. We have a XV and STI, STI has more capacity, can fit two prams in the STI whereas XV barely one. SUVs have high blindspots, making it easier to run over children.

    AWD is good particularity in the rain but not deal breaker. I would opt for autonomous braking assist. Subaru has this with their eyesight system, Kia have a version with their safety pack to GT trim.

    Id say look at impreza wagon with eyesight and Kia Cerato wagon with safety package. Rear cross traffic alert is good feature too, have this in my STI saved me a few times.

    •  

      Kia Cerato wagon

      What is this thing you speak of?

      • -2 votes

        Boomers dont like wagons, hence being called a hatch but its a wagon.

        •  

          What are you on about? Do you even know what a boomer is? It's not the boomer generation who aren't buying wagons, its the younger generations.

          • +2 votes

            @Burnertoasty: I guess i'm the exception to the rule :(

            I thoroughly believe wagons over all. The boot space is unbeatable.

    •  

      How is XV/STI/Impreza different when they are all Imprezas?

  • +4 votes

    I've got a Forester, Subaru's are well known for their high safety ratings so better off with manufacturer than body type imo. I really like the adaptive cruise control feature.

    Two things I don't like about it are the front pillars are thick so less visibility and there is a bit of body roll when going around some corners at speed due to the high centre of gravity. It's sort of wide as well so it's accumulated quite a few scratches from careless people.

    I'm averaging 11L/100km with Sydney city driving but covid consumption is around 9L/100km.

    Edit: I have been considering downsizing. Not sure to what yet.

    • +1 vote

      Interesting you talk about body roll & high centre of gravity.

      I was always under the impression that one of Subaru's biggest strengths was their low centre of gravity - largely owing the the position & layout of the boxer engine.

      •  

        Maybe I should slow down more… It's not every corner but more compared to my old hatchback (obviously)

    • +1 vote

      I second this. Get a FORESTER

  • +2 votes

    You may want to re-check those prices as they dont seem to include Dealer or Government Statutory charges. (another $4-$5k on top) They look like MLP.

    Subarus website lists the Forester as $39,153 and on Honda the CR-V Vi is $34,415.

    • +1 vote

      This!

      Those prices are far from being the drive away prices

  • +1 vote

    This is such a depressing thread.

    • +2 votes

      Said the camel farmer to the prophet

      John 47:32

      • +2 votes

        LOL

      • +2 votes

        If camels could talk, they'd ask the farmer's wife for their toe back.

  • -3 votes

    AWD will help you to accelerate faster in slippery conditions so that you crash at a higher speed compared to 2WD. That's pretty much how it helps with safety.

    • +1 vote

      Potentially reevaluation one's perception of how safe adverse weather conditions are.

      Never ceases to amaze me that people who drive in the wet like they drive when it is dry.

    • +1 vote

      That's some super dumb logic right there.

      •  

        Don't hold it, tell us more about the correlation between AWD and Safety.

        •  

          I have, look below. It's not even worth engaging you if that is a legitimate post, I mean that is astoundingly dumb.

          •  

            @Burnertoasty: So it is your personal opinion that:

            While most AWD systems are tuned to understeer also, on the absolute limit they are much easier to regain control of.

            and

            when you do go over the limit, you might regain control in an AWD car

            and obviously that my statement is:

            that is astoundingly dumb

            Sounds like everybody should believe you based on this evidence, thank you.

            How about referring to something at least remotely legitimate:
            https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/2wd-awd-or-4wd-h...

            • +1 vote

              @npc: It's not an opinion. It's facts based on physics and mechanics. Your post is opinion based on some illogical assumption that people in all wheel drive cars are going to drive faster than people in front wheel drive cars. And you clearly have no idea what understeer is, and the fact that you can't recover from severe understeer in a front wheel drive car, but you can in an awd car by giving it more throttle. That's a huge difference in itself.

              •  

                @Burnertoasty: Nice write up. Still, the only real fact that we have in the whole conversation is from my original message:

                AWD will help you to accelerate faster in slippery conditions…

                I'm not sure why you think that it is dumb or not true.

                Just keep in mind that if you have the word physics and your opinion in one sentence it doesn't make your opinion to be true.

  • +3 votes

    I would look into more of the safety features of a vehicle and the ANCAP Safety Ratings, things like ABS, electronic stability control, brake assist, blind spot warning systems, land departure warning, AEB and a whole bunch of other features instead of focusing on an AWD version of an SUV, as that extra traction does not necessarily mean it is safer.

  •  

    Go by the ANCAP rating, thats what its there for.

    •  

      I'm fully aware of ANCAP ratings. I'm assuming all other things being equal. Sorry for the confusion; I've clarified the question in my post now:)

    •  

      ANCAP ratings are not comparable across different car categories though. Which is the reason for my question.

    •  

      The ANCAP on a Jazz is different to a Ranger.

  • +7 votes

    Spend $300 on a defensive driving course and be a better driver. All these add on features are for the lowest common denominator. Don't be the LCD.

    •  

      I believe I'm quite a safe driver. But any key takeaway points to share? (Assuming you've attended one before)

      • +2 votes

        I’ve done a few as my previous workplace for many years put a high emphasis of safe driving. The very best one was really spending a few hours on city, country and dirt roads. One of the key takeaways was him pulling me up on lots of little bad habits and slack practices that I’d built up over time.
        I think everyone should do something like this a few years after getting their licence.
        Safe driver???
        I’ve never heard anyone say that they were not a safe driver. The right lane hogger last week said he was a safe driver. My SIL ‘believes she is quite a safe driver’ She is [email protected]@dy terrifying……

  • +3 votes

    AWDs are great in the wet and particularly excellent on gravel roads. In a gravel road situation, they are fairly equivalent to a 4WD operating in High-Range, except you don't need to manually engage it, so you won't forget it and neither will the wife.

    In terms of safety technology, the base-model forester 2.5i is absolutely loaded and doesn't really compromise much compared to more expensive models. All foresters are AWD and they don't particularly charge a premium for AWD compared to other manufacturers who offer both.

    The other standout is the RAV4 Hybrid. You will get the additional hybrid expenditure back on a combination of fuel savings and additional resale value (extremely popular with Uber/Uber Eats drivers), and the Hybrid drivetrain is excellent to drive.

    If you have any plans to ever tow a camper trailer or something like that, none of these vehicles are great so you will need to jump up to the next class of vehicle (50-60K).

    Many AWD vehicles also have "off road modes", such as X-Mode in the forester. These are a "remap of the engine, transmission, and drive train that will make your car operate well in a compromised traction condition at low speed", and while this doesn't mean you have purchased a lifted, kitted out Land Cruiser 4WD, they can be useful for muddy/snow situations and in those situations it will be better to have this capability than not.

    •  

      Do hybrids maintain their value? I imagine a 10 year old hybrid would require new lithium batteries..

      Good point on the towing btw. I'll keep that in mind. Have you had any experience towing with any of the above models?

      • +1 vote

        Do hybrids maintain their value? I imagine a 10 year old hybrid would require new lithium batteries..

        Can't Uber with a 10yr+ car.

        Hybrids need to be driven high mileage. Just saw the other day a 10 year old 500k/kms on the ODO. Battery not great but okay. Can't let them sit for 2 months else the batteries will discharge. It is bad for the batteries not kept at optimal range of charge.

  • +6 votes

    Ok OP your question doesn’t make sense, as one is a drive type and one is a body style, but here are some facts:

    ANCAP ratings are relative to class size, so a 5 star Barina is not as safe as a 5 star Range Rover contrary to popular belief. In a car on car accident, the heavier the car, the safer you are.

    AWD systems help with traction, not grip. Grip is dependant on the width and compound of your tyres. So a 2wd car on the same tyres as an AWD car will have the same grip. But traction matters. In wet conditions for example an AWD car will regain grip much quicker than a 2WD car. That’s important for passive safety.

    Long wheel base, heavy front wheel drive cars are fine for 99% of most people’s use, but at the limit, they handle very poorly and understeer very badly, sometimes it’s impossible to recover. While most AWD systems are tuned to understeer also, on the absolute limit they are much easier to regain control of. This matters in a potential accident situation. I personally would not buy a long wheel base front wheel drive car, because while it’s fine almost all the time, that one time when you do go over the limit, you might regain control in an AWD car and end up in a pole in a front wheel drive car. Plus washout understeer is a horrible feeling, you’re totally out of control.

    Torque steer is also a problem in many front wheel drive cars, even with clever diffs and traction control. They can reduce it, but you can’t remove it. That means slower around a corner but more importantly more front tyre wear.

    •  

      Thanks for the info! And sorry for confusion. I've added a clarification to my post. Hope that helps.

      • +1 vote

        FWIW personally I would definitely not buy a large front wheel drive car. They are unsatisfying to drive, and on the absolute limit, in an emergency, they are unsafe and unpredictable.

        •  

          Do you have any recommended reading/references for me to learn more about understeering and washout? I'm not familiar with them.

        • +1 vote

          The vast majority of drivers don’t drive ‘on the limit’ or even anywhere near it. They are just wheel jockeys waiting for self driving to be affordable.

          •  

            @Euphemistic: You only have to be at the limit once in a car's lifetime for the difference to matter. I've accidently gone around corners too fast. I'm sure you have too. Sometimes the car is the difference between being on the road or being part of the road toll.

            •  

              @Burnertoasty: I’ve deliberately gone around corners too fast. Plenty of times.

              My point remains, modern vehicles are pretty safe, majority of wheel jockeys will have the same response front or all wheel drive at the limit, ie panic-> crash. Buying AWD for that one instance doesn’t make a lot of sense financially. Most people probably buy AWD for the ‘keep up with the jones’ factor and will never go anywhere near the traction limits because they haven’t been taught to drive properly and they don’t drive off road either.

              Your experience with part time AWD reinforces that opinion as it is next to useless in a split second situation such as ‘on the limit’. Stability control on a FWD vehicle is probably more useful for the majority.

              •  

                @Euphemistic: I've had issues with stability control on my mum's X5 when I was younger. I turned the corner at Ikea Richmond down Burnley St too fast, and the stability control actually cut the power completely, and I understeered into the sidewalk pretty hard, and scuffed up her 20 inch alloys. That was AWD and I couldn't power out because the systems wouldn't let me. I wasn't even going that fast, probably 20kmh, just a very low grip surface that day. Years later on purpose I took her E class for spin in the country and was giving it some boot around the dirt roads and the system worked much better, but it wasn't progressive at all. When you go the tail out, it would slam on the inside brake, (and make a huge bang), but it would straighten the tail up. It was disconcerting, but it worked better. I didn't like the progressive nature of it though. Currently she has a new X3, which is a fine car, but the electronic systems are still rubbish, I had to turn the reverse automatic emergency braking off, because it would slam the brakes on fully when you backed out of her driveway, on a slight incline. Bring the car to a complete stop. Very disconcerting. That being said, the same systems work fine on my cars. Much more progressive and almost seamless. You can barely notice them. But my point is, that these systems are a parachute, they sometimes work, they sometimes don't work (you just have to look at Euro NCAP AEB tests, where basically every car fails), and you are much better off with a mechanical, predictable system, rather than something that it designed to save you at the last possible second. Obviously an AWD car would have both the preemptive system and a parachute, so it has much better redundancy.

  • +6 votes

    That's a weird comparison. SUV vs AWD.

    SUV refers to body shape.

    AWD refers to power distribution.

    Do you need the ride height/space or do you need more traction?

    •  

      Obviously OP needs MS paint some venn diagrams

  • +4 votes

    In my own experience the only practical difference in day to day driving between front wheel drive (FWD), rear wheel drive (RWD) and all wheel drive (AWD) is taking off at a roundabout in the wet.

    FWD if you take off too fast you spin wheels then have to wait for traction to get moving. The danger is in others arriving where you are while you are still getting moving.
    RWD you take off too fast and you end up facing backwards parked in a hedge/fence/mess unless you know how to correct the slide.
    AWD you take off a lot faster but can slide straight ahead in understeer once you start to round the bout.

    Unless you are driving too fast, the rest of the time they are pretty much the same.

    Part time AWD is pretty much useless unless you drive muddy roads. It mostly doesn’t do anything because the system is overridden by traction control when on roads.

    AWD and SUVs cost more in fuel, tyres etc due to being heavier and more complex.

    • -1 vote

      Front wheel drives definitely wear out tyres faster than awd cars.

      • -1 vote

        True, additionally many AWD models are running FWD the majority of the time and only drive the rear wheels when traction is compromised. Essentially it’s just a heavier FWD

        • -1 vote

          Haldex systems are common, and vastly inferior to a true AWD system or a rear biased system, but they are supposed to kick in when you really need them, when you're in trouble. I personally owned a haldex AWD car for a few months, and while on paper it seemed good, I was astounded at how long the system took to kick in. Maybe mine was faulty, but if I took off from the lights quickly in the wet, it would spin the wheels at the first lights, just like a front wheel drive car, then at the second set of lights, it would allow a little bit of slip and then kick power to the wheels, and by the third set it was in AWD from a standstill. Maybe it wasn't warmed up and the clutches would slip, but I noticed this behaviour multiple times. I'm not sure it would kick in as expected in an emergency situation.

  • +3 votes

    Normal 2WD station wagon (car), 4wd/awd systems when they break are expensive to repair, and you'll use more fuel. Unnecessary for 99% of most people's use.

    • +1 vote

      Agreed. AWD system also adds to the car's weight as well. Unless you really need it for occasional dirt road, snow or beach driving, OP should save themselves the extra cost and just go with a 2WD car, especially a run-out or low klm demo.

      It is good that OP is sticking with a car that is in the top 20 as well. No problem with resale or parts availability.

      • +2 votes

        Unless you really need it for occasional dirt road, snow or beach driving.

        Unless you really need it for regular dirt road, snow or beach driving.

        People drove 2WD vehicles in those conditions for decades before the SUV became a thing.

        •  

          People drove 2WD vehicles in those conditions for decades before the SUV became a thing.

          That takes common sense and skill. Which people lack. At some point off road will just be a feature, you push the button and even through you're driving 100kmph down the freeway you'll get some noise and small bumping to simulate off road.

  • +1 vote

    Would it be safer to drive my family in an AWD sedan/hatch or a 2WD mid-size SUV?

    Biggest mass (<4500t) + a beefy bull bar is safer against the rest in a head to head collision.

    • +3 votes

      4500t would be a fully loaded freight train. I don't think the OP is in the market.

      •  

        LOL yea, def not.

    • +1 vote

      That's an American full size truck with a GVM upgrade.

      Yes, it is safe in a full head on. In fact, give it some lift and a bash plate and you may just overcome a collision entirely.

      • -1 vote

        You realise that the GVM upgrade typically doesn’t change the weight of the vehicle, just allows you to carry more.

        •  

          Yeah, but OP is talking 4,500kg vehicle (he said T but I'm going to assume kg). No SUV or ute has a dry weight or GVM of 4,500kg so to have a vehicle that weighs 4,500kg, you do need a GVM upgrade.

          • -1 vote

            @tshow: It’ll only be 4500 if fully laden. Without GVM upgrade fully laden will be lighter, to whatever the manufacturer spec is. Normally it’ll be well under that.

            •  

              @Euphemistic: Yup. Perfect opportunity/reason to do that GVM upgrade. Add 50kg of sound deadener. Add 50kg for sub box and subs.

              Add a canopy, LR tank sub tank, water tank, RTT, bull bar, winch, rear winch, 24V 200AH (make sure it is lithium. Much lighter.), Roof rack, gas tank, double spare wheels…

              Lol. I actually wish I had a vehicle with a 4,500kg GVM :(

  • +2 votes

    Most new cars have all the safety technology on them now so it comes down to the fundamentals of stability which are: get the centre gravity as low as possible. Electric cars can do this easy. Generally, a sedan or hatch is going to be more stable on a sealed road than a SUV or 4X4.

    • +1 vote

      There’s another reason to consider that modern vehicles are pretty much as safe as each other. It’s not as simple as the drivetrain or height. Where one vehicle has better safety in one respect, another vehicle might have better safety in another.

      There are so many factors to safety, the biggest one being the squishy bit hanging onto the steering wheel.

      Narrow down your usage, budget and other needs first then when you get to two otherwise suitable models FOR YOU then you can compare on safety features.

    • -1 vote

      Electric cars do have one drawback though.

      Lithium can be highly explosive. Much more so than a full tank of petrol.

      So, from a safety perspective, it's much of a muchness.

      •  

        Electric cars do have one drawback though.

        Oh, and here I was thinking it was the having to tell everyone about how you own one and going out of your way to buy stock in the manufacturer and then spending the rest of your time converting everyone to follow the same cult you're now in.

        •  

          Nah. I'm not moving to San Francisco anytime soon.

      •  

        I will believe that the first time I hear of people being burned alive after their electric car goes up in flames and explodes after a crash like petrol cars do.

        • +1 vote
          • +1 vote

            @whooah1979:

            Batteries explodes when certain conditions are met.

            Fuel explodes (detonates, actually) when certain conditions are met.

            How many batteries have you seen or know of exploding?

            Not an EV battery, a common 12V car battery. How many?
            Me? NONE

            •  

              @LFO: A common 12v car battery is lead acid. Lithium batteries are far more flammable. Not a very good comparison.

              Heard of Samsung phones or hover boards exploding or catching on fire, that’s a more valid comparison.

              • +1 vote

                @Euphemistic:

                12v car battery is lead acid

                They expel or produce, whilst intense activity (charge / discharge), gases that are highly explosive. No naked flames please.

                that’s a more valid comparison

                I was nit picking on the written assertion: Batteries explodes when certain conditions are met
                Lithium batts might, Not "batteries".

                Besides, it is very anti EV to scare potential adopters with explosions, range, witchcraft and the lot …
                Prices of EVs are the scary bit.
                Very scary.

      • +1 vote

        Electric cars do have one drawback though.

        Actually excessively high price is the big drawback.

  • +3 votes

    The Impreza would be safer in most situations wouldn't it, because it has a lower centre of gravity and handles better? The heavier SUV's better in a crash.

    SUVs are dangerous, for everybody else.

    "While the laws of physics dictate that in a crash between mismatched vehicles, the lighter one takes the brunt of the impact, this study shows just how unequal the contest is.
    In car vs. SUV head-on crashes, the study found that the odds of death were 7.6 times higher for the car driver than the SUV driver. In crashes where the car had a better front crash-test rating than the SUV did, the car's driver fared a bit better but was still four and a half times more likely to die than the SUV driver."

    https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/05/suvs-are-sa...

  • +3 votes

    AWD simply imply that all wheels are driving force.

    What you should be concerned with is anti lock braking, stability braking, and such that essentially steers you out of trouble.

    You either think like a yobbo and go BIG, or you think smart and go technology.

  •  

    Stick with FWD and spend your savings on quality tyres and brakes….

    •  

      Brand new vehicles comes with new tyres and brakes.

      •  

        But generally not great ones… Especially the tyres… Many OEM spec tyres optimise fuel consumption over handling and grip. Not unknown for an OEM to go to a cheaper tyre after a vehicle launch, when all the review cycles have been completed/press cars have been registered…

  •  

    You're better off in the sedan/hatch - not because of the AWD vs 2WD, but because the sedan/hatch has a lower centre of gravity (than a higher SUV) and is therefore less likely to rollover in the event that you are hit, or have to evade an accident and hit uneven ground.

    Also, unless it's a low traction situation (snow/very wet/slippery) you won't notice much difference between the AWD vs the 2WD you've listed because they're all low powered vehicles and even the 2WD probably won't spin a wheel at any speed above 30km/h (even if the traction control was off).