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Three Minivans Score Poorly in IIHS Crash Test

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The Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, all received the lowest score of poor in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test. This test simulates what happens when a vehicle’s front corner collides with another car or a utility pole and has been a tough one¬†for automakers.

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“Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious, but we’ve only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes,” said IIHS chief research officer David Zuby in a press release.

Those two minivans are the Honda Odyssey, which received the top score of good in the small overlap test, and the updated-for-2015 Toyota Sienna, with its acceptable score. IIHS scores are good, acceptable, marginal and poor. Both the Odyssey and the Sienna have received IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus designations, which is the agency’s highest award. The 2015 Kia Sedona, which recently arrived at dealerships, wasn’t tested by IIHS because the automaker plans to make changes to the minivan to improve its small overall protection. IIHS plans to test it as soon as it’s available.

The majority of minivans tested scored poorly in the small overlap crash test because the vehicles are built on car platforms, but are wider and heavier than cars, according to IIHS. This means that more of the minivan is outside of the main energy-absorbing structure, so these kinds of crashes bypass that protective structure.

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Toyota refreshed the Sienna for 2015, modifying the minivan’s front structure to better protect front occupants in small overlap crashes. While it performed better than the Quest and Chrysler twins, there was still more than 5 inches of intrusion at the Sienna’s upper door hinge pillar and instrument panel (photo above). Measurements taken by IIHS after the small overlap test found that the risk of injuries would be low in a similar crash.

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The Quest didn’t fare nearly as well as the Sienna. In the small overlap crash test, the Quest’s structure (photo above) at the lower hinge pillar was pushed into the driver’s area nearly 2 feet, and the parking brake pedal moved 16 inches into the cabin. The test dummy’s left leg was stuck between the seat and instrument panel, and the right foot was wedged between the brake pedal and toe pan. To remove the dummy, IIHS technicians cut out the seat out and the used a crowbar to free the right foot.

“A real person experiencing this would be lucky to ever walk normally again,” Zuby said. It’s possible a driver’s right femur, or thighbone, would be broken in a similar crash. The Quest’s rating applies to 2011-15 models.

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On the Town & Country (photo above), the minivan’s structure intruded 15 inches at the lower hinge pillar and instrument panel, and the test dummy’s skin on its left lower leg was gouged by the parking brake pedal’s intrusion. The dummy’s left knee skin also was torn by a steel brace from under the instrument panel. The doorsill and steering column both moved in toward the driver in the small overlap crash. According to IIHS measurements, a driver would have left hip, knee and lower leg injuries in a crash of this severity. The Town & Country’s small overlap results apply to the 2008-15 Chrysler minivan, 2008-15 Grand Caravan and the 2009-12 Volkswagen Routan, a now discontinued twin of the Chrysler minivan.

IIHS photos

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 20 to reflect that the Kia Sedona still needs to be crash-tested.

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