The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) updated its moderate overlap front crash test in late 2022, and it found that four minivans struggle to protect second-row passengers. The agency stresses that minivan manufacturers need to prioritize safety for the rear occupants.
While the minivan is no longer a common sight in driveways across America, it remains relatively popular among buyers with kids and gear to haul around. The IIHS tested four models: the Chrysler Pacifica, the Kia Carnival, the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. These vans were put through an updated test that places a dummy the size of a small woman or a 12-year-old child in the seat directly behind the driver.
IIHS explains that, for a vehicle to earn a “good” rating, there can’t be an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest or thigh. None of the four minivans achieved that distinction; the Pacifica, the Carnival and the Sienna got a “marginal” rating, while the Odyssey scored a “poor” rating. IIHS also points out that, with the exception of the Sienna, these vans lack a seatbelt reminder for the second-row passengers.
“The restraint systems in all four vehicles leave the second-row occupant vulnerable to chest injuries, either because of excessive belt forces or poor belt positioning. That’s concerning because those injuries can be life-threatening,” said Jessica Jermakian, the IIHS vice president of vehicle research, in a statement. IIHS stresses, in spite of these results, the back seat remains the safest place for children to travel in.
In the Sienna, the rear dummy “submarined” (or slid forward) beneath the lap belt while the shoulder belt moved toward the neck. In the Carnival and the Pacifica, the seatbelt put too much force on the dummy’s chest. IIHS adds that, alarmingly, the Pacifica’s side curtain airbag did not deploy during the crash test and that the forces exerted on the dummy’s neck were high in the Carnival. In the Odyssey, the forces exerted on the head and on the neck were even higher, and the dummy’s head came too close to the front seatback in spite of the seatbelt.
On a brighter note, all four vans earned a “good” rating for front-passenger protection.