Over the years, crash tests have evolved into a science. As automakers, regulators, and insurance companies figure out the types of automobile crashes that occur, they can work toward making cars safer. One test that has proven a doozy for automakers to pass is the new passenger-side small overlap front crash test. It’s designed to simulate hitting a car hitting something on the side of the road that only impacts a small section of the front of the vehicle – like a tree or telephone pole.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica, 2018 Honda Odyssey, and 2018 Toyota Sienna to see how they do in the passenger-side small overlap front crash test. Both the Pacifica and Odyssey passed the test, but the Sienna didn’t do well, earning a “Poor” rating for its structural integrity.
In 2015, Toyota modified the Sienna’s structure to improve driver-side crash protection; however, the automaker did not make the same improvements to the passenger side. This is evident by how much the structure intruded into the lower passenger compartment – as much as 20 inches with more than 16 inches of intrusion at the dashboard.
“The intruding structure crumpled around the test dummy's legs,” said David Zuby, the Institute's chief research officer. “A real right front passenger would sustain possible injuries to the right hip and lower leg in a crash of this severity.”
The Pacifica also saw structural intrusion, earning it a “Marginal” rating. However, sensors from the dummy indicated a low risk of injury, which offsets its “Marginal” structural rating. When Chrysler introduced the Pacifica, it did so with upgraded protection for both the driver and passenger for the small overlap front crash test.
Both the Odyssey and Pacific earn the Institute’s 2018 Top Safety Pick award. What held them back from receiving the Top Safety Pick Plus honor were their headlights, something that is just as important as crash protection. Neither vehicle earned a “Good” headlight rating.
As automakers learn about how cars crash, they will learn how to protect occupants better. Once automakers have built cars that consistently pass this test, they’ll move onto the next problem area.