IIHS: Minivans Don't Do Enough to Protect Rear Passengers

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Minivans are undefeated as family haulers, but a recent announcement from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) casts doubt on their ability to protect the precious cargo in their back seats. The crash-testing organization gave all four American minivans below-acceptable ratings in its new moderate front overlap test, which was recently updated with a stronger focus on back-seat protection and safety.

The Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, and Toyota Sienna earned the next-to-lowest rating of “Acceptable,” while the Honda Odyssey earned a “Poor” rating. IIHS spokesperson Joe Young told Automotive News the scores come from a disconnect between the safety features provided for front-seat passengers and the lack of the same tech for back-seat occupants. The organization said the latest advances in airbag tech and passenger restraints are “rarely available” for people riding in the back seats.

While alarming, especially for parents toting vans full of kids around town, the IIHS believes its findings will drive a quick improvement in back-seat safety. All of the minivans on sale in the U.S. are due for updates in the coming years, and the Pacifica will likely go fully electric by 2028, which will bring improvements to back-seat safety. Young said that the changes don’t require structural updates to the vans, so they can be implemented before a full-on mid-cycle or generational refresh takes place.

[Image: Toyota]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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7 of 16 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Sep 20, 2023

    Yes, let's add 20 more airbags, so that a 30mph rear-ender causes the vehicle to be totaled due to the repair parts costs. Genius!

  • Wolfwagen Wolfwagen on Sep 20, 2023

    And Im sure unibody CUVs are not much better.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Sep 20, 2023

      There isn't much space between rear of van and seats. I used to prefer going into the big city in my truck. 6 1/2 feet of frame and box before cab.

  • Jeff Jeff on Sep 20, 2023

    This study might encourage more people to buy suvs and pickups instead of vans. Understand the need to make vehicles safer but this could lead to the few remaining manufacturers that make minivans to discontinue them. Suvs and pickups are more profitable and anything that discourages manufacturers from making a more family oriented vehicle in the long run is not good when it comes to choice.

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Sep 24, 2023

    Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."