Four popular minivan models have recently faced a safety wake-up call in the updated moderate overlap front crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in late 2022. The results highlighted a concerning struggle to protect second-row passengers, emphasizing the need for manufacturers to prioritize rear occupant safety.
While minivans may not be as ubiquitous in American driveways as once, they remain a go-to choice for families hauling kids and gear around. The IIHS tested four models: the Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, Toyota Sienna, and Honda Odyssey. In this updated test, a dummy representing a small woman or a 12-year-old child was seated directly behind the driver.
For a vehicle to earn a “good” rating, it must not pose an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, or thigh. Unfortunately, none of the four minivans achieved this distinction. The Pacifica, Carnival, and Sienna received a “marginal” rating, while the Odyssey fared worse with a “poor” rating. Notably, except for the Sienna, these vans lack a seatbelt reminder for second-row passengers.
According to Jessica Jermakian, the IIHS Vice President of Vehicle Research, “The restraint systems in all four vehicles leave the second-row occupant vulnerable to chest injuries because of excessive belt forces or poor belt positioning. That’s concerning because those injuries can be life-threatening.” However, it’s crucial to note that despite these results, the back seat remains the safest spot for children to travel.
In the Sienna, the rear dummy “submarined” or slid forward beneath the lap belt while the shoulder belt moved toward the neck. The Carnival and Pacifica experienced excessive force from the seatbelt on the dummy’s chest. Furthermore, it was discovered that the Pacifica’s side curtain airbag failed to deploy during the crash test, which raises a significant concern. In the Odyssey, the forces on the head and neck were even higher, and the dummy’s head came dangerously close to the front seatback despite the seatbelt.
On a positive note, all four vans earned a “good” rating for front-passenger protection, providing some reassurance in that aspect.