The competition among minivans is already tight and the most recent ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the current model year have only made that wrestling match tighter.
The Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey are 2018 Top Safety Picks. They were among the qualifiers when IIHS announced initial winners of the 2018 awards last December. Both earned a superior rating for front crash prevention and have acceptable-rated headlights. Better headlights would have secured Top Safety Pick+ awards – the group’s top rating – for these minivans.
To earn a 2018 Top Safety Pick, according to IIHS, a vehicle must have good ratings in all IIHS crashworthiness tests except the passenger-side test. Other requirements are a front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.
When the individual ranking segments are broken down, the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica earned “good” overall ratings while the Toyota Sienna fell to an “acceptable” rating. Overall, the minivan segment performed well, although the passenger-side tests did provide some separation, according to the IIHS.
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“In our latest passenger-side tests, we didn’t find any performance issues with safety belts or airbags like we did when we evaluated small and midsize SUVs earlier this year and midsize cars last year,” said David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research officer. “Instead, we saw some structural deficiencies on the right side that still need addressing.”
It was the passenger-side small overlap front test where the Odyssey, which earned a “good” rating, surpassed the Pacifica and its “acceptable” rating. The Sienna received a “poor” rating in the test.
A small overlap crash occurs when just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole, according to IIHS. The group began rating vehicles for occupant protection in a driver-side small overlap front crash in 2012 and added the passenger-side test last year to make sure occupants on both sides of the vehicle get equal protection.
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Manufacturers are making fast improvements, IIHS noted, to secure a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side test, one of the requirements to earn a 2018 Top Safety Pick+ award. In the Sienna’s case, the structure allowed as much as 20 inches of intrusion in the lower occupant compartment and more than 16 inches of intrusion at the dashboard.
“A safety cage must be strong enough to resist intrusion in a crash to protect the people inside, no matter where they sit in the vehicle,” Zuby said. “The intruding structure crumpled around the test dummy’s legs. A real right front passenger would sustain possible injuries to the right hip and lower leg in a crash of this severity.”
Intrusion also was an issue for the Pacifica. Marginal ratings for structure kept it from achieving the top rating in the passenger-side small overlap test.
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Additionally, the IIHS released its LATCH ratings. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) is a system of attachment hardware for child restraints that is intended to simplify installation. Child restraints installed with LATCH are more likely to be put in correctly than restraints installed using the vehicle safety belt, IIHS research has shown. Among 2018 minivans evaluated, the Odyssey earned a “good+” rating for LATCH ease of use. The Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona and Sienna rated “acceptable,” and the Pacifica was “marginal.” The “good+” rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a good rating and provide additional seating positions with easy-to-use LATCH hardware.