It's a particularly steep design challenge because it forces just 25 percent of a vehicle's front end to take the brunt of a 40-mile-per-hour impact. The newly released results of four family-minded minivans underscore just how difficult the crash test is: only one scored an Acceptable rating, and the other three did very poorly.
The 2008-2015 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, plus the 2011-2015 Nissan Quest, all received Poor ratings in the test, the IIHS' lowest possible score. The three of them showed significant crash intrusion into the driver's area. The dummy in the Nissan actually had to be cut out of the vehicle, with an IIHS spokesperson remarking, "the structure collapsed like a house of cards." In the Fiat Chrysler Automobile vans, the steering wheels moved out of the way, making the airbag less effective and letting the driver's head hit the dashboard. While it was not actually crashed, the agency is also giving the 2009-12 Volkswagen Routan a Poor score because it shares a structure with the FCA models.
The refreshed 2015 Toyota Sienna, conversely, earned an Acceptable rating and is also a Top Safety Pick+ because of its optional forward collision warning and automatic braking system. While the crash test dummy moved around during the impact more than the agency would have liked, sensors showed a low risk of injuries.
The IIHS tested the Honda Odyssey last year, and it earned a Good overall score, the agency's best ranking. It's also a Top Safety Pick+ vehicle. The only member of the minivan segment left to test is the latest Kia Sedona, and the Institute is reportedly waiting a little longer for Kia to make changes to improve the model's performance.
When reached for comment, Nissan spokesperson Steve Yaeger provided Autoblog with the following statement:
"Nissan is committed to vehicle safety and believes that consumers should have information about crash protection so they can make educated buying decisions. Nissan is proud of the 2014 Quest's "good" rating in the IIHS front moderate overlap and side impact tests as well as a "good" head restraint rating.
As for the performance of the 2014 Quest in the 'small overlap frontal test,' Nissan will continue to review these and other results from IIHS testing as we seek opportunities for improvements."
Chrysler Group also provided Autoblog with the following statement:
"No single test determines overall vehicle safety. Chrysler Group minivans meet or exceed all government-mandated safety requirements. They are unchanged, structurally, from previous model-year vehicles that received the highest performance ratings bestowed by the IIHS in tests simulating the four main crash types - side, rollover, rear and moderate-overlap front."