The 2008 Nissan Xterra has been tested by both the NHTSA and IIHS for crashworthiness, and the two agencies award the Nissan Xterra above-average crash safety scores.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency responsible for issuing crash safety ratings, gives the Nissan 2008 Xterra four out of a possible five stars for occupant protection during front impacts, while the Xterra receives a full five stars for side impact occupant protection. The one lagging score is the rollover rating, where the Xterra scores only three out of five stars.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) affirms the NHTSA ratings, for the most part. The Nissan Xterra earns the highest possible rating from the IIHS, "good," for frontal offset impacts. When equipped with the optional array of side airbags, the Nissan Xterra also receives a "good" rating for side-impact protection. However, the absence of these airbags drops the rating to "marginal," the second-worst of the IIHS ratings. Some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, including the one by Cars.com, note that "despite the fact that the Xterra has active head restraints--which are designed to decrease the chance of whiplash in a rear-end collision--the SUV received a Poor overall score in an IIHS rear crash test."
Aside from crash-test ratings, the scores in the safety category reflect the available safety features on a vehicle. In the case of the Nissan 2008 Xterra, all the expected safety features are present, along with some extras for the off-road bunch. Edmunds reviewers write "all Xterras come equipped with stability control and antilock disc brakes," while Kelley Blue Book notes that "the Xterra Off Road model includes electronic Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist." Other standard safety features as listed by Cars.com include "electronic brake-force distribution, an electronic stability system and active head restraints for the front seats," while they say that the optional safety features list begins and ends with "side-impact and side curtain airbags" that "are bundled together in an option package that's offered on all trim levels."
Another vital aspect of the safety rating is driver visibility, which is commendable on the 2008 Nissan Xterra. While ConsumerGuide writes, "visibility is hampered by the rear roof styling and wide-base windshield wipers," other reviewers disagree. Car and Driver, in particular, raves about the "unimpeded view from commanding driving position" that the 2008 Nissan Xterra offers.