Is it safe? Mixed results for minivan models in passenger crash test

WASHINGTON — Crash test results on minivans suggest recent Toyota and Chrysler models have a ways to go in safeguarding passenger safety.

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) presented passenger-side crash test results on the 2018-19 models of the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey.

In its tests, IIHS ran the three minivans through what it called a small overlap front test — simulating a collision involving just the front corner of a vehicle, similar to what happens when a car strikes an object like a tree or utility pole. The tests are meant to help manufactures make improvements to boost driver and passenger-side safety.

Results held that the Pacifica and Odyssey both boasted good results in passenger-side safety, while the Sienna was less than satisfactory. The Sienna, in particular, received a “poor” rating in structure, and an overall grade of “marginal.”

Full passenger-side crash test results for the 2018-19 Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda minivan models. (Courtesy Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

“In our latest passenger-side tests, we didn’t find any performance issues with safety belts or air bags like we did when we evaluated small and midsize SUVs earlier this year and midsize cars last year,” said David Zuby, chief research officer at IIHS. “Instead, we saw some structural deficiencies on the right side that still need addressing.”

According to IIHS, Toyota began modifying the Sienna’s design to incorporate driver-side protection starting with 2015 models. But those changes have yet to translate over to the passenger-side, explaining the Sienna’s result grade in structure. Specifically, IIHS found that the Sienna experienced a high degree of “intrusion” — the inward collapse of the vehicle into the passenger compartment.

“The intruding structure crumpled around the test dummy’s legs,” Zuby said of the Sienna. “A real right front passenger would sustain possible injuries to the right hip and lower leg in a crash of this severity.”

The Pacifica also experienced a similar issue with passenger-side intrusion, though still scored a rating of “marginal” in structure and an acceptable rating overall.

The Honda Odyssey, meanwhile, received a score of “good” in all categories except structure, where it received a rating of “acceptable” — though still the highest of the three models tested.

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