It turns out the vehicles entrusted with the safety of families are not as safe as you may think.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put four modern minivans through its new small-overlap crash test, and three of them fared poorly. The Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan all earned poor ratings in the test. The Toyota Sienna managed an acceptable rating, although the IIHS says the van displayed subpar structural performance. The only one of the four to earn a good rating is the Honda Odyssey.
The small overlap test was introduced in 2012 to measure the effect of a crash when 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.
Despite the Toyota Sienna earning an ‘acceptable’ rating, numerous issues were noted with the van’s test results. Intrusion into the cabin measured 5.5-inches at the upper door hinge pillar and instrument panel, the dummy’s head immediately slid off the front airbag and the seat belt allowed the driver to move too far forward. On the positive side though, the side curtain airbag was enough to protect the driver’s head from the intruding structure and the actual chance of an injury in this type of crash is low according to the IIHS.
Overall, the Sienna earns a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the IIHS thanks its top marks in all other crash tests and its available advanced front crash prevention rating system.
Results for the Nissan Quest were much worse. Intrusion into the cabin measured a full 2 feet at the lower hinge pillar while the parking brake pedal moved 16 inches toward the driver. After the crash, the dummy’s legs were both trapped by intruding parts of the structure. In the event of a crash like this, it is likely that the driver would never walk properly again says the IIHS.
Despite this poor rating, the Quest earned ‘good’ ratings for restraints and head/neck safety, but the IIHS says its own results are misleading. These tests measure how well the safety belt and airbags work to control the dummy’s movement, and because the dummy was pinned by the structure, movement was minimal.
The Chrysler twins didn’t fair much better. The Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan both had 15 inches of intrusion at the lower hinge pillar and the instrument panel. This resulted in the skin of the dummy’s legs being punctured by the parking brake and an intruding steel brace and the dummy’s head sliding off the airbag and hitting the instrument panel. Injuries to the left hip, left knee and left lower leg would be likely in a crash of this severity.
Chrysler’s minivan results apply to the 2008-15 Town & Country, the 2008-15 Grand Caravan and the discontinued 2009-12 Volkswagen Routan.
Kia will submit a Sedona minivan in the coming weeks for testing after the brand has made some structural improvements.
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