That’s what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an organization that represents the interests of the insurance industry, found in its latest round of bumper tests, conducted on six different 2008 minivan models at 3 and 6 mph.
This time around, the minivan models tested were the Chevrolet Uplander, Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, and Toyota Sienna.
Over the four tests, the Quest sustained a total of $8102 in damage, including extensive crumpled sheetmetal. “Quest owners can expect huge damage repair bills after all kinds of low-speed collisions,” said Joe Nolan, senior vice president of the Institute. “This isn’t a good vehicle choice for consumers looking for a minivan with reasonable repair costs.”
There may be more potential for bodily damage in the Quest as well. The organization rates the Quest ‘Poor’ for rear crash protection, representing a higher likelihood of neck injury. That rating is based largely on seat and headrest geometry, rather than a whole-vehicle test.
Most disappointing, Nolan said, was the Quest’s performance in the full-width rear test. It “miserably failed the rear full-width test, sustaining more than twice as much damage as the best performer, the Honda Odyssey,” he remarked in a release.
The Quest’s tailgate was so badly damaged that it needed to be replaced; meanwhile in the frontal test the Quest slid under the barrier and sustained damage to the hood and grille. It was also the only one with hood damage in the full-width frontal test
The Institute runs four different tests — front and rear full-width impacts at 6 mph, and front and rear corner impacts at 3 mph — all into a barrier that’s designed to mimic the design of a car bumper, with a flexible cover and plastic absorber like those on newer vehicles. The barrier is 18 inches off the ground on full-width tests and 16 inches for the corner impacts.
The Honda Odyssey was far from stellar, with $5258 of total damage in the tests, yet it was the best overall performer of the lot, while the Dodge Grand Caravan had the least costly damage in a single test, at $483 for its rear corner test.
Shoppers should be aware that repair costs can vary widely from model to model, the organization cautions. For instance, replacing the radiator supports cost $347 for the Grand Caravan but $674 for the Quest — a cost differential that will factor into insurance premiums, too. “The best was to avoid these costs is for automakers to equip their vehicles with bumper systems that resist damage in the first place,” said Nolan. “Until manufacturers do this, customers will have to study our crash test results and shop accordingly.”
Because minivan bumpers are slightly higher than typical car bumpers, the minivan bumpers, as a group, did “somewhat better” than a group of mid-size sedans tested earlier in the year, mostly, according to the IIHS. Overall, they’re less likely to under-ride, which leads to more costly cosmetic damage.
In general, the IIHS also says, minivan bumpers do better because their back bumpers are typically wider and they serve better to protect adjacent areas — the taillights, for instance — from expensive damage in low-speed corner impacts.
-- Bengt Halvorson