Popular with parents because they are commonly considered to be one of the safer vehicles on the road, minivans have taken a blow to their safety ratings with a new series of crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The tests showed that minivans are not as safe as many people have thought.
A lead executive at IIHS, Dave Zuby, described one particular test’s results as one of the worst they have ever seen. He was talking about a small overlap crash test for the Nissan Quest, which ended up with a rating of poor and the worst results in the study. Zuby said that a person experiencing this type of crash would be lucky to ever be able to walk normally again.
In the tests, which looked at how minivans handle collisions where the front corner of the of the minivan impacts another vehicle or an object such as a light pole or tree at 40 miles per hour, the corner of the driver’s door on the Quest was pushed in by two feet, resulting in the floor and instrument panel pinning the dummy into its seat. Zuby said that the seat had to be removed before the dummy could be cut out of the vehicle, and a crow bar had to be used to free its right foot. The airbag was also shoved up into the dummy’s face.
Out of five minivans crash tested, only two received positive safety ratings, with the rest considered poor. Only the Honda Odyssey received a rating of “good,” with the Toyota Sienna receiving the second highest score of “acceptable.” Along with the Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town and Country and the Dodge Caravan were given the lowest rating. In the tests, the structures of all of the minivans rated as “poor” collapsed from the force of the crash. In the Town and Country, the dummy’s head hit the instrument panel after sliding off the air bag.
Small overlap tests were first introduced by the Institute in 2012. This was the first time a group of minivans was tested, and the IIHS said that it was surprised to see these types of severe crashes result in some of the worst outcomes. The construction of minivans, with the body wider than the car platforms they are built on, places them at a disadvantage, as large areas are left that are less able to absorb the force of a crash. They can also inflict more severe damage because they are heavier than cars.
Zuby did not comment on how passengers seated other than in the driver’s seat would handle a similar accident, which is one of the most common and potentially deadly scenarios facing drivers. He said that they did not see that children sitting in the second or third row would be impacted by the crash.
The Kia Sedona minivan, also sold in the U.S., has not yet been safety tested in crash situations to determine its rating. The company is currently making a change to the vehicle that should improve its performance. The institute said that it will be tested in a few weeks.
By Beth A. Balen