April 18, 2006

New Kia Sedona minivan and Subaru Impreza earn top crash test scores

Arlington, Virginia – The Kia Sedona and Subaru Impreza are the best performers in a group of minivans and small cars recently evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Significantly, the Sedona is the first minivan to earn the Institute’s TOP SAFETY PICK award, and the Impreza is only the second small car design to earn this award. Both vehicles earn gold awards for good crashworthiness ratings.

The Institute also evaluated the Toyota Prius hybrid’s front, side, and rear crashworthiness plus the side crashworthiness of three other vehicle designs – the Mini Cooper (small car) and Dodge Grand Caravan and Chevrolet Uplander (minivans). Results for these vehicles update the results for minivan and small car models that were released last year. Side tests of the Grand Caravan, Uplander, Mini Cooper, and Impreza were delayed at the request of the vehicle manufacturers, who were making changes to improve crashworthiness.

Among the eight current minivan designs the Institute has rated, the Sedona is the only one that earns good ratings in all three Institute tests (this vehicle also will be sold as the 2007 Hyundai Entourage later this Spring). The new Sedona’s frontal crash test performance is an improvement compared with the previous model, which the Institute rated acceptable.

“The Sedona is the best minivan we’ve tested,” says Institute president Adrian Lund. “Other minivans have earned good front and side ratings, but they haven’t achieved a satisfactory level of rear crash protection. The Sedona stands out as the first to get a clean sweep of good ratings across the board.”

Subaru reinforced the pillar behind the rear passenger door and upgraded the side airbags to standard in the 2006 Impreza. This car also has head restraints that do a better job than those in other small cars. The Impreza is a good performer in all three Institute tests (front, side, and rear) and earns the gold TOP SAFETY PICK award. Its results also apply to the Saab 9-2X, which is based on the Impreza design.

The Toyota Prius was a good performer in the frontal crash test and, equipped with optional side airbags, also good in the side test. But it’s rated marginal for seat/head restraint design, so it isn’t a TOP SAFETY PICK. The movement of the driver dummy was reasonably well controlled during the frontal test. Although the dummy’s head did hit the pillar between the doors and the roof rail, head accelerations were low. Other injury measures also were low, and the Prius’s structure held up with minimal intrusion into the occupant compartment.

The Institute conducted two side tests of the Prius, with and without its optional head-protecting side airbags. Without the airbags the Prius earns the lowest rating of poor. Another important aspect of crashworthiness is how well seat/head restraints protect people from whiplash in rear impacts. The ones in the Prius earn the second lowest rating of marginal.

The Institute tested the Chevrolet Uplander with and without its optional side airbags (results apply to similar Buick, Pontiac, and Saturn models). In both tests there were problems with the seats in the middle row. With the optional side airbags, all four attachment points for the seat occupied by the rear passenger dummy completely dislodged. The seat broke free. In the second test without side airbags, one attachment point released and a second one broke, allowing partial separation of the seat from the floor.

The side test of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan was delayed from last year because the manufacturer was working on changes to improve its performance. Beginning with 2006 models (built after December 2005), side airbags were updated, roof and side structures were strengthened, and interior door trim was changed. In the test without optional side curtain airbags, the intruding barrier struck the driver dummy’s head. In contrast, the Grand Caravan with its optional side airbags is rated good for head protection. The curtain-style airbags deploy from above the windows to protect people in all three rows of seats.

The Institute’s frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Side evaluation is based on performance in a crash test in which the side of the vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points are measurements of head restraint geometry – the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph.

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