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Discussion Starter #1
I know calling one car safer than another is not always black and white. It all depends on they type of collision.

But here is my scenario. My wife drives a 2001 4runner, SR5, no side-airbags. We also have a kid on the way. This will be the primary baby-car.

I want to move her into something that:

1) Has a lower center of gravity
2) Has side and curtain airbags.

I was originally set on a Highlander, but the new RAV4 looks like a much better package.

I figure we can get $10-12k on the 4runner, and a RAV4 will cost us about ~$25K after Tax and License, so this trade will cost me $13-$15k which is alright. (base model I4 or V6 TBD)

So the RAV4 is slightly smaller and lighter than the 4 Runner, but I figure the roll-over factor is a bigger issue coupled with the side-airbags. I’m thinking that the RAV4 will in general be safer all around. What are everyone’s thoughts on this?

Thanks in advance!
 
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It's hard to say. I knew someone who died in a Bronco II rollover. But, the baby in the back car seat was fine. The real issue was the driver wasn't wearing her seatbelt and was partially ejected/crushed.

Then again, air bags deploy in frontal crashes and you are still likely to get one or both legs broken from the impact. I knew someone else in such an event that threw a clot later at the hospital and died instantly.

You just can't predict what will happen.
Just buy the safest vehicle you can.

Drive Safe.
 
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I just saw this report, mentioning the "RAV4 with side air bags" as one of ONLY FOUR vehicles -- and the ONLY SUV!!! -- to receive a "double-best" rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is a distinctive honor, to say the least. Owners of the RAV4 with side air bags have one of THE safest cars on the road, period.

These stories are essentially the same, with slight differences in the telling. You actually have to read almost the entire article to see that the RAV4 is included in this select group. You'd think the dang headliner would be "new SUV among safest cars ever" but of course that would offend the PC news establishment.

Excerpts: Only four vehicles have earned the "Double best pick" rating from the Institute: Audi A4, Audi A6, the Saab 9-3 and the Toyota RAV4 with optional side airbags.

Along with another Audi, the A4, the A6 is one of four vehicles that have earned the designation of "double best pick" for exceptional performances in both front and side tests. The other two are the Saab 9-3 and the Toyota RAV4 with optional side airbags.

Links:

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/iihs_luxury.html

http://www.cnn.com/2005/AUTOS/07/17/iihs_a6_m35/index.html
 

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Yeah, hockeymulder, we went through a similar process trying to decide on whether or not to upgrade from our '96 4Runner to the new RAV4. There are so many more safety features on the RAV4: stability control, lower center of gravity, available side air bags, (we got the LTD with driver's knee airbags too), good visibility, etc. The stability control in particular is impressive. I got my wife to perform the following test: from a stop, floor the gas pedal on a gravel road. Our 4Runner swerved all over the place while the RAV4 went in a straight line. We have felt great about our purchase and even better seeing that our vehicle is one of the few out there to receive such a high IIHS rating.

The only thing I miss from the 4Runner is the ability to go anywhere, even over parking curbs or anything. That was a great feeling. BUT. Having a less "indestructible" vehicle is actually a good thing: it causes you to drive more sanely and safely. I can't comment on the differences in such things as side impact beams or crumple zones between the two vehicles, but maybe somebody out there has knowledge of this.

Good luck with your decision, though. Let us know what you decide.
 
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As rule of thumb, newer vehicle, especially from same manufacturer, is much safer car, both active and passive safety.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
bcbob,

Knee airbags??!! I haven't heard of this being available in any of the RAV4s in any trim level. Is this only in Canada?

Thanks for all your responses so far. It looks like going with the RAV is a good way to go.
 
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Yep! Driver's side knee airbags are part of the top-of-the-line "B" package available in Canada. Regretably, though, we don't get tire pressure sensors. Hey, win some, lose some.
 

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We have a 2001 4Runner Limited in the extended family. Certainly does have that go-anywhere feel, but on the whole it's a truck and drives like one. It does have VSC, but it's not a particularly nimble vehicle and is certainly more tippy, being relatively narrow and tall. I'd rather be in something like a RAV4 if I needed to do any emergency manoeuvres to avoid an accident.
 
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