Comparing Volvo vs Subaru Safety Rating

 In Auto Grades, Auto Professor's Safest, Midsize SUV, Vehicle Safety

Is the safety rating of a Volvo always better than a Subaru safety rating? Which is safer, a Volvo XC90 SUV or the Subaru Outback SUV

How to Compare Volvo to Subaru Safety Rating

Volvo cars have been historically considered “some of the safest cars.” But that reputation was earned when it was a Swedish company. Today Volvo is owned by the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. So, it seems reasonable to ask, are Volvo’s still the safest cars?

We decided to answer this question by comparing the Auto Grades of another company that markets its cars using the safety banner, Subaru.

While we invite our site visitors to explore all the different models of these companies, we do a single side-by-side comparison for the midsize 2021 SUV’s Volvo XC90 and the Subaru Outback.

The Same Auto Grade but Not the Same Technology

The Subaru Outback earned a B+ and the Volvo XC90 earned an A Auto Grade. That is, in our opinion, the Volvo XC90 provide better driver protection in a crash.

And when it comes to driver-assist technologies, there are some similarities and some differences.

Both vehicles have forward collision warning, crash imminent braking and dynamic brake as standard equipment. So that means that if you are looking at a 2021 vehicle, then you can be sure that your vehicle has these important driver-assist technologies. In essence, if the driver is distracted, then these technologies will prompt you to brake or, in some instances, actually do the braking for you.

The Outback has one technology advantage over the XC90. All 2021 Outbacks have a well-performing lane departure warning system, as standard equipment.  However, according to the federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2021 Volvo XC90 either does not have lane departure warning as standard equipment or it does not pass the federal performance test.

A Look at Some Reliability Data

While safety is our most important concern, when two vehicles are equal in safety, we like to look at the reliability. For this we go to the federal website In addition to providing the laboratory star ratings, this site provides the list of consumer complaints filed with the federal government. If enough owners complain and the federal government decides that the problems reported by consumers may cause injury or death, they carry out an investigation. If the investigation determines a real problem, then a recall is performed.

As of mid-December 2022, the Volvo XC90 had 8 complaints filed. This is a relatively small number (about 0.02%) given that about 39,000 of these vehicles were sold in the US. There were 3 recalls. Currently, there are no investigations.

The 2021 Subaru Outback had 169 complaints filed (about 0.1%) of the 154,600 vehicles sold. The most frequently sited complaints are about the electrical system, the visibility/wiper system and the forward collision avoidance system. There were 2 recalls on this vehicle. As of mid-December 2022, there were no investigations. From our point of view, the 2021 Subaru Outback has a reliability customer satisfaction problem.

Our Choice

So, faced with the choice between these two midsize SUV’s, we tend to favor the Volvo XC90 for safety and reliability.


Where are Volvos made?

Volvo Car Corporation is a Swedish vehicle brand currently owned by the Chinese auto company Geely. It is headquartered in Sweden and still makes cars there. However, like most automakers, they have manufacturing and assembly plants all over the world to serve different markets. Sweden, Belgium, China and the United States all have Volvo locations.

Where is Subaru from?

Subaru is the car manufacturing division of Japanese transportation company, Fuji Heavy Industries. They continue manufacturing in Japan and added a plant in Indiana to supply North American markets.

How safe are Subarus?

Our safety ratings give the Subaru Outback an Auto Grade of A. This safety rating is based on the actual experiences of drivers on roadways in the worst crashes. The Outback offers top tier protection. We consider it among the safest SUVs.

Are Volvos really safer?

We’re going to have to answer that with a question, “Safer than what?” The purpose of Auto Grades is to be able to easily make comparisons between car makes, models, and years. Try the free Auto Grade search tool for the safety rating of the specific Volvo you have in mind. Be sure to personalize the Auto Grade for your own gender and age. Then, compare that grade to any other model you choose. The Auto Grades are based on real-life crash data and are designed to be easy to understand.

Volvo’s History

With an Overall Auto Grade of B+, the Volvo XC90 is still among the safer cars, according to our analysis. And, the reputation for safety by Volvo is well earned. Today, we take these safety devices for granted. But in the 1990’s and 2000’s, some of these could only be found on the more affordable Volvo models.

For example, a sound to remind you to buckle up was implemented by Volvo in the early 1970’s, side impact protection system in 1991 in 850, 940 and 960 models, and roof mounted inflatable curtain side airbags on the S80 in 1998. Long before electronic stability control was required in 2012, the XC90 had this rollover prevention system on its 2002 model.

However, the original culture of safety associated with Volvo may have been disrupted when it stopped being a Swedish company in 1999. Ford bought Volvo in 1999, though it was only held for about 10 years.  In 2010 the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group bought Volvo.


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