December 21, 2007

Nissan Quest rates poorest in minivan bumper crash tests

Arlington, Virginia – Front and rear bumper crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that six 2008 minivan models sustained US$5,000 or more in damage at 3 and 6 mph (4.8 and 9.6 km /h). The Nissan Quest rated the worst, sustaining damage that cost more than US$8,000 to repair.

The IIHS conducts the tests to assess and compare how well vehicle bumper systems resist damage in the types of low-speed collisions that frequently occur in commuter traffic and parking lots. Vehicles tested were the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna, Chevrolet Uplander, Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest.

“These minivans don’t have the worst bumpers we’ve tested, but they still allow way too much damage in minor impacts,” said IIHS senior vice-president Joe Nolan. “It’s damage that consumers shouldn’t have to pay for or put up with the aggravation of having to get their vehicles repaired.”

The minivans performed somewhat better in four bumper tests than midsize cars tested by the IIHS earlier this year. This is in part because the front bumpers are an inch (2.5 cm) higher off the ground, compared with car bumpers. The extra height means the minivans’ bumpers didn’t usually under-ride the test barrier, which increases damage.

Most of the minivans tested also have third-row seats that fold into the floor, which requires pushing the vehicles’ frame rails wider. This creates wider rear bumpers, which do a better job of protecting the rear corners. None of the minivan taillights were damaged in the rear corner tests, although headlights were damaged in four of the six front corner tests.

The Quest, the worst performer overall, “miserably failed the rear full-width test, sustaining more than twice as much damage as the best performer, the Honda Odyssey,” Nolan said. “This is disappointing because full-width tests are the easiest ones. They spread the energy of an impact across a vehicle’s whole back or front. But the Quest’s rear bumper system failed when its reinforcement bar cracked and was driven into the rear body of the vehicle, resulting in expensive repairs. The tailgate was so badly damaged that it had to be replaced.”

Of the six minivans tested, all but the Chevrolet Uplander sustained damage in the rear full-width test. The Quest and Toyota Sienna required tailgate replacement, while those on the other minivans could be repaired at less cost.

The Honda Odyssey performed the best overall; it sustained front, front full-width and front corner damage in line with the other vehicles, but performed better in rear tests. In the rear corner test, the Dodge Grand Caravan was the best performer, sustaining the least amount of damage in any of the 24 individual tests.

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