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Popular Family Car Fails Crash Tests: Are You at Risk?

Several popular minivan models performed poorly in a new type of crash test, according to a new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The results are concerning, particularly given how popular the vehicles are among families.

The small overlap front crash test was first introduced in 2012. It simulates what would happen when 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. This type of crash focuses the impact force in a small area of the vehicle and often causes the vehicle to spin. By comparison, in standard front impact tests, 40 percent of the car’s front bumper strikes the barrier.

The new crash tests are important because approximately 25 percent of all serious and fatal accidents are attributed to “small overlap” impacts, according to the IIHS. The accidents often result in severe foot and leg injuries when the car’s front wheel is pushed back into passenger compartment.

Unfortunately, the IIHS has discovered that many cars are not designed to protect passengers in this type of accident. In the latest round of tests, the minivans often collapsed around the dummy. In one test, the intruding parking brake pedal gauged the skin on the dummy’s lower leg, and the head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off and hitting the instrument panel.

“Minivans are a popular choice among safety-conscious parents, but three of them fail spectacularly in the small overlap front crash test,” the IIHS report states.

The IIHS found the Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, offered little to no protection from side-impact crashes. They all received poor ratings. The Toyota Sienna earned an acceptable rating, despite a subpar structural performance. Meanwhile, the Honda Odyssey was the only minivan to earn a good rating in in the small overlap crash test. Test results on the Kia Sedona are forthcoming.