By on August 16, 2018

You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.

Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results.

Honda’s Odyssey performed the best, receiving a good rating in every category but structural deformation — which was deemed average. It also managed the small overlap challenge like a champ on both the driver and passenger side of the vehicle. Overall, the IIHS declared the Odyssey worthy of the its Top Safety Pick award for 2018.

That was also true of the Chrysler Pacifica. However, the passenger-side small overlap test resulted in average levels of deformation. By no means abysmal, it placed the model a half step behind the Honda in overall crash protection. But we wouldn’t suggest it influence your shopping decisions more than a little, especially if you aren’t particularly fond of your spouse.

Unfortunately, Toyota’s Sienna proved ineligible for a Top Safety Pick award. Earlier tests showed the model lacking in structural integrity, as well. While the automaker has since made changes to improve driver-side protection, those alterations didn’t extend to the passenger side. This ultimately led to a vehicle with slightly better protection for the driver and rather poor protection for the front passenger.

Deformation was also an issue, and is plainly seen in the test footage. The Sienna saw as much as 20 inches of intrusion in the lower occupant compartment and more than 16 inches of intrusion at the dashboard. “The intruding structure crumpled around the test dummy’s legs. A real right front passenger would sustain possible injuries to the right hip and lower leg in a crash of this severity,” explained IIHS chief research officer David Zuby.

The silver lining is that the minivan segment performs well as a whole. Earlier tests of the Kia Sedona also resulted in Top Safety Pick honors, thanks to its structural integrity and superior headlamps. There was also no vehicle in the segment, save for the ancient Dodge Grand Caravan, without the option to add superior frontal crash prevention systems and adequate (or better) headlamps. Passenger restraints are also universally good, with the Pacifica’s Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system proving a little more difficult to use than the rest of the group.

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

The Kia Sedona and Dodge Grand Caravan weren’t subjected to the right-side test. But we’d imagine the Sedona performing rather well (and the Caravan to be exceptionally lacking) based upon previous driver-side overlap results. It should be noted that the Dodge managed a good showing in all other crash tests, despite receiving a poor rating overall. Blame that score on its crummy headlamps and complete lack of advanced driving aids, which the IIHS takes into serious consideration these days.


[Images: IIHS]

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24 Comments on “Honda Odyssey Reigns Supreme in Latest Minivan Crash Test...”

  • avatar

    The new Odyssey also reigns supreme in:
    – Crooked window trim from the factory
    – Misaligned bumpers
    – Rear doors that won’t open
    – B pillar trim covers that deform under the sun
    – AC that blows hot or hardly cold in the rear

    The new Odyssey has been a disaster on the Odyssey forum. Initial build quality is terrible, I’d stay away until Honda fixes their quality issues regardless of crash test results.

    • 0 avatar

      Hasn’t quality been an issue for a while with the Ody? I recall driving in a friend’s previous gen (upper trim) thinking “this is a Honda?”

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve owned a 2017 Pacifica (lost in Houston-Hurricane Harvey floods) and now a 2018 Odyssey Touring. 25000 miles on the Oddy in about 1 year of nonstop use. Both vans are equally pleasant to drive, equally comfortable. When I bought the Oddy, I noticed a misaligned front bumper and some uneven window trim. But unlike the Pacifica, the Oddy’s structure and suspension still feel ROCK SOLID after the miles accumulated. I am also no fan of Honda’s slow-witted 10-speed automatic. But then again, very few automatics have ever impressed me.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “While the automaker has since made changes to improve driver-side protection, those alterations didn’t extend to the passenger side”

    No, of course they didn’t. That would cost a little bit of money and its probably cheaper to just deal whatever minor backlash occurs when this type of story surfaces. Similar hijinks didn’t stop the F-150 juggernaut.

    On the plus side, the icky-looking structural deformation didn’t seem to do much to the injury probability measures.

    • 0 avatar

      This is SHAMEFUL of Toyota. I would not buy a vehicle where I knew one side had been worked over for safety while the other had not.

      • 0 avatar

        Just be sure to crash that side.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        But you’ll buy a used one where neither side has been worked over?

        I’m not defending it, but I’m not outraged. You can’t exactly call this van unsafe given the low injury measures from this test. I don’t like the underlying mentality of cheaping out this way because they either don’t think anyone will notice or care, but I also wonder if automakers don’t already have some data on existing safety issues with their models that never see the light of day (anyone here have any info on this?).

        You’re not an angel for only making the safety improvements that will give you good public IIHS scores.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t blame a manufacturer for releasing a car and then suffering in a new test the model is subjected to.

          I do blame them when they half-ass it intentionally when they know there’s a problem. If the results were bad enough to warrant a fix, then it warrants a fix to both sides of the vehicle. It’s a lazy “that’s enough” solution.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            You don’t think automakers have some idea of what happens to their vehicles when the crash forces miss their safety structure?

            The IIHS introduced the 40% moderate overlap test 23 years ago, yet no automaker thought “hey, what happens if this thing gets in an even smaller overlap wreck”? I don’t buy that for a minute. Automakers fixed it around 2012 when they knew it would be tested and the deficiencies apparent to the buying public. They fixed it to preserve sales, not out of concern for safety.

          • 0 avatar

            30-mile fetch, except Volvo (and previously Saab), who’ve consistently done well on new tests the moment they show up, while others take a few years.

            The star ratings for modern cars conceal significant (factor of two to five) differences in injury likelihood between similarly five-star-rated cars; I think it’s time to rearrange the ratings a bit.

            The Koreans generally seem to do a pretty good job of not teaching to the test; when I was looking for a midsize sedan last spring, I ended up with a ’15 Genesis for that reason. H/K cars aren’t as safe as Volvos of the same mass, but they don’t pull crap like forgetting to reinforce the passenger side as even safety-promoting stalwarts like Subaru have done.

            If I had my druthers I’d be in an S90, but for a 50% discount the Genesis is a reasonable compromise that probably won’t crush my wife’s legs.

            Also, 20 inches of chassis intrusion is 1980s-level structural stability. I don’t care what the numbers said for that particular impact; I wouldn’t get out of the electric chair to ride in a car that folds up that readily.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Peri, I do agree except for the last paragraph which I find to be a bit hyperbolic. If these results are frightening, you should never ride in anything before MY2014. Or a subcompact, compact, or midsize vehicle in the current age of 700K F150 annual sales. Because front crash results are mass dependent, if you hit a heavier vehicle instead of a fixed object the results go out the window. If you’re moving faster than the test speeds, the results go out the window. I’m not going to praise a manufacturer for acing the IIHS test on their compact sedan when they also manufacture half ton pickups that will kill the occupants of said sedan in a real world crash.

            I can’t blame anyone for putting crash test results as a priority in their shopping, but I do think some of these edge-case crash IIHS scenarios might skew our assessment of risk considering how many real world crash possibilities exist outside their test parameters.

            Does the 2015 Genesis have small overlap reinforcements on the passenger side? IIHS only tested the driver side.

            Along these lines, there’s no NHTSA or IIHS test for rear-end impacts beyond front head restraints. How does the rear cabin hold up between different models? We don’t know, although I’d like to since my kids are back there. Are manufacturers watching out for our safety and spending R&D on rear cabin protection the way they do now for IIHS frontal tests? Once IIHS tests it they will, some a year or two quicker than others, but that hardly makes them noble for doing so since rear collisions have existed since horseless carriages first plied the roads.

            Sorry for the long reply, this was something that has been rattling around my brainpan since shopping for two vehicles since the small overlap test debuted.

          • 0 avatar

            Oh, and by the way, the Sienna’s head injury criteria for the passenger small overlap test were *415*. That’s insane. The Odyssey was around 100, which is quite good, and the thing is, those measures, if memory serves (and I looked this up) mean you’re multiple times more likely to suffer a debilitating head injury in the Sienna. At an HIC-15 of 1000 there’s a 90% likelihood of a “moderate” head injury, which, while I haven’t found a specific definition, is unlikely to be fixed with a cold washcloth and an Advil. So you’re multiple times more likely to be functionally impaired, even within the same “Acceptable” IIHS rating.

            It’s one thing if that difference requires you to spend twice as much money, but there are really big head injury gulfs between cars of the same basic quality, type, and price level, so it’s definitely worth actually looking at the raw IIHS head injury numbers, in particular, before you buy something.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            That’s good perspective, Peri. Wonder why the HIC was so high when the head stayed on the bag. Also surprised the “Good” rating has such a broad range of HIC values. Briefly, never-wrong wikipedia cited an HIC of 700 as the max for the “acceptable” rating, which corresponds to a 5% chance of “severe” injury. Low % risk for a severe accident, but big consequences if you fall within it.

            Prompted me to look up my 4R. Fine HIC on the driver small overlap but passenger side not yet tested. The closest competitor I considered, the Grand Cherokee, has had this passenger overlap test and did very poorly–side airbag didn’t pop and the head smashed the dash. I suspect my 4R wouldn’t do well either, though hopefully not as bad as that GC. Yet another compromise for owning a dinosaur.

            The data side of me wants to know how much variability there is in these tests. They smash one car per test and I can only imagine the range of potential confounding factors to control for to ensure the vehicle is the only factor tested. I know better than to look at a data point without a corresponding measure of variance.

          • 0 avatar

            30-mile fetch, the 15 Genesis wasn’t tested but the 17+ G80 has been, and as far as I’m aware hasn’t been structurally modified. The results aren’t 100% symmetrical but were reasonably good anyway, and as you point out, mass matters. On my budget, the alternatives were the usual sedan suspects – Camry, Accord, Fusion, etc. They’re all 800 to 1000lbs lighter, and notably smaller; in the Genesis my wife sits a mile back from the dash, which wouldn’t be the case in a smaller car. So all of those things plus other factors combined to make the Genesis the winner.

            It didn’t hurt that it’s a damn nice car, either. Hyundai pulled out all the stops on interior quality, gave it a long warranty, and it got murdered on depreciation because nobody knows about it.

            As for riding in anything pre-14, well, yes and no. Mainstream brands? Probably not great. But Volvos and Saabs hold up shockingly well – the old S80 platform is from the Jurassic and its crash data come close to matching or exceed the MY15+ Genesis – and there are quite a few recent Mercs that do well too. Surprisingly bad? BMW, whose awful recent 5 series results would have ruled it out even if price hadn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        The entire driver side test was because of the approaching vehicle highway crossing argument.
        Where is this test based on, England?
        What would be the odds of hitting at this angle at this corner?
        I appreciate they design for most likely crashes.

        • 0 avatar

          “Does the 2015 Genesis have small overlap reinforcements on the passenger side? IIHS only tested the driver side.”

          Good question, but I’d note that Hyundai started claiming they were adding it starting with the 2016 Tucson, so maybe not. IIHS didn’t note any changes when Hyundai tested the 2017 G80, though, so maybe so.

          “Where is this test based on, England?
          What would be the odds of hitting at this angle at this corner?
          I appreciate they design for most likely crashes.”

          Just because it’s not the MOST likely doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Cars run off the road and hit poles and trees and bridge pillars and the like all the time. The IIHS focuses on crashes that produce expensive claims, so rest assured it’s enough of a problem for them to worry about it.

  • avatar

    …Unfortunately, Toyota’s Sienna proved ineligible for a Top Safety Pick award. Earlier tests showed the model lacking in structural integrity, as well. While the automaker has since made changes to improve driver-side protection, those alterations didn’t extend to the passenger side. This ultimately led to a vehicle with slightly better protection for the driver and rather poor protection for the front passenger…

    The Toyota Sienna performed the worst of the trio of minivans. The safety cage collapsed on the passenger side in the test, resulting in a marginal rating. Earlier tests showed the Sienna was lacking in structural integrity and although Toyota made improvements to driver-side protection, those alterations clearly didn’t extend to the passenger side.

    I mean, I get you guys don’t like to talk badly about Toyota, but your spin on the results in your paragraph smacks of Bertel days.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Their spin was a lack of spin. But the lack of spin is actually spin because spin isn’t spin if I agree with the spin.

      This is why people self-select the news they believe.

  • avatar

    although I am still not convinced this test has any importance compared to the driver side…unless you are in England, but I simply cannot find the data.
    I have watched the video many times and both the Honda and Pacifica perform equally.
    There is no reason given for the acceptable rating on the build.

    Watch the video and you have to agree…where’s the beef?

    • 0 avatar

      You do realize that they actually take measurements? They don’t watch the videos and say “they look about equal”.

      The Pacifica did slightly worse, the data shows that. I’m sure FCA will go back and do internal testing to figure out what needs to be done to get the score up.

      • 0 avatar

        I wish to see the data.
        I cannot find these measurements you are claiming.
        Have you seen them?
        And what is “slightly”?
        What was the build issue they demoted the Pacifica for?

        • 0 avatar

          Can find data here. Pacifica exhibited a few centimeters of additional intrusion as compared to Odyssey.

    • 0 avatar

      IIHS is an insurance group dedicated not to saving lives for the sake of that, but of reducing claims. No, in LHD countries, it’s not as important as on the driver’s side. BUT rest assured they see plenty of death and injury claims on this side or they wouldn’t bother.

      • 0 avatar

        well, their wish to lower claims making a small issue an expensive one…if we are not given the data.
        It’s saving them money and costing us a whole lot more IF the number of real accidents doesn’t require such change.
        How many claims did they get for this issue, and what was it on modern, recently sold cars?

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