CARS.COM — Chrysler’s all-new 2017 Pacifica is the first minivan to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest crashworthiness designation: Top Safety Pick Plus. There’s a caveat, however: The honor applies only to Pacificas manufactured after August, when the automaker made changes to prevent the driver’s door from opening in a crash.
Related: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Review
The Pacifica earned the necessary scores of good in all five IIHS crash tests, including small and moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations. It also earned a superior rating for its optional front crash prevention system, which avoided collisions during testing at 12 mph and 25 mph; systems must earn an advanced or superior rating for the Plus designation.
Initially, the Pacifica met with difficulty during the stringent small overlap front test, which simulates the front corner of a vehicle striking an object such as a tree or utility pole. The minivan’s door was torn from the hinges, putting occupants in danger of being ejected, IIHS stated.
“Fiat Chrysler [Automobiles] strengthened the upper hinge and reinforced the joint between the door hinge pillar and inner body panel in front of the pillar,” IIHS said in a statement. “In the second test, the door remained attached and closed, resulting in a good rating.”
Pacifica predecessor the 2016 Chrysler Town & Country also had its problems with the small overlap front test, receiving a poor rating that prevented it from receiving a Top Safety Pick score. It scored good in the other four crashworthiness categories, but did not offer a front crash prevention system.
The improvements to the Pacifica certainly paid off. It’s now the only van in the segment to have the coveted Plus designation. The 2016 Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona come closest, both earning a Top Safety Pick with good scores in all five crashworthiness tests and a basic rating for front crash prevention. The 2016 Toyota Sienna, meanwhile, failed to earn a Top Safety Pick honor, scoring acceptable in the small overlap front test — though it did receive an advanced rating for front crash prevention.