But researchers noted: "Not a single small SUV out of 21 tested earns a 'good' rating in the headlight evaluations."
More than two-thirds of those tested are rated "poor."
The study involved testing and grading the performance of a vehicle's low and high beams in real-world driving situations.
The Institute considers headlights to be important safety equipment and says that headlight performance in today's vehicles varies widely.
Those with "poor" ratings include the 2016 Audi Q3, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Renegade, Jeep Wrangler, 2017 Kia Sportage, 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester.
The vehicle with the worst headlights is the Honda HR-V, researchers said.
"The HR-V is one of 12 small SUVs that can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights," the study said.
Car shoppers need to make sure they're getting the vehicle model with the best headlights.
For example, the Hyundai Tucson's acceptable headlight combination is available on the Limited model, but the headlights on other versions earn a "poor" rating.
The Institute plans to test the headlights on pickup trucks next.
Edmunds says: Many vehicles are available with different headlight combinations. Safety-minded car shoppers should be sure to look at the rating of each version of the small SUV they are considering.