Best and Worst Cars and SUVs for Visibility

CR tests reveal clear differences within many categories

2019 Subaru Forester Subaru

Car shoppers are often drawn to a vehicle by its appearance, but the most important view is from the driver’s seat. Outward visibility plays a key role in safety, and it goes far beyond what drivers see through the windshield.

The view through the side and rear glass is important because it helps drivers maneuver safely, whether they’re changing lanes, merging onto a highway, or getting into a parking spot. That view has become ever more critical because recent car design trends have resulted in thicker roof pillars that are harder to see around. (Those design changes have been driven in part by tougher roof-crush standards in crash tests, improving aerodynamics, and even car style, with rear pillars and glass now increasingly sloped.)

The decreased visibility means drivers are having a harder time seeing not only other cars but also pedestrians, a particular concern in cities, parking lots, and near schools.

CR evaluates the visibility on every car, SUV, and truck we purchase and test. This is done with a jury approach, with several testers of different sizes and heights recording their impressions and assigning a score. The detailed findings are presented in our online road tests.

Ranking Visibility

We have broken out the visibility scores, part of our driving position rating, from our road-test scores to rank models by category for the first time.

Our findings show that, in general, sedans have better visibility than SUVs, with some exceptions.

A few categories have a clear trend, with a dramatic outlier. For example, among small SUVs, the Subaru Forester is vastly superior to its rivals, a trait that makes it especially appealing for teen and senior drivers.

Best & Worst Lists

We’ve omitted several categories, such as minivans and large SUVs, because there isn’t a large difference in visibility from the best to worst model.

When you’re test-driving a car, look beyond acceleration and the feature-laden infotainment system to consider the all-around visibility. Be attentive to how easy it is to look over your shoulder when changing lanes or backing out of a parking space.

Below are the best and worst cars and SUVs for visibility.

2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS
2020 Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Chevrolet

Subcompact Cars

Compact Hatchbacks

Compact Sedans

Luxury Compact Cars

Midsized Cars

Luxury Midsized Cars

Sports/Sporty Cars

Compact SUVs

Luxury Compact SUVs

Midsized SUVs (2-Row)

Midsized SUVs (3-Row)

Luxury Midsized SUVs

Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).