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The Honda Odyssey minivan outperformed the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica in a new crash-test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Odyssey was the only minivan of the three tested that earned a "good" rating in a punishing test that replicates what happens when the front-passenger corner strikes another vehicle or object such as a utility pole or a tree. The IIHS, which represents the insurance industry, began rating vehicles for occupant protection for driver-side "small-overlap" testing in 2012. Last year it added the passenger-side test to make sure occupants on both sides were protected.

The Pacifica received an "acceptable" rating in the passenger-side test. The Sienna was the lowest-performing of the three minivans, achieving a "marginal" rating.

The Odyssey and Pacifica were still identified as Top Safety Picks by the institute, which noted that passenger-side tests are not factored into the designation. Headlights that were only rated as "acceptable" instead of "good" kept both models from earning the Top Safety Pick+ designation. 

“In our latest passenger-side tests, we didn’t find any performance issues with safety belts or air bags like we did when we evaluated small and midsize SUVs earlier this year, and midsize cars last year,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. “Instead, we saw some structural deficiencies on the right side that still need addressing.”

The insurance institute said Toyota modified the structure of the Sienna to improve its driver-side protection beginning with the 2015, but the group said the Japanese automaker did not make the same changes to the passenger side.

The institute said the Sienna's structure allowed as much as 20 inches of intrusion in the lower-occupant compartment and more than 16 inches of intrusion at the dashboard in its passenger-side tests. That allowed the structure to crumple around the crash dummy's legs.

"A real right-front passenger would sustain possible injuries to the right hip and lower leg in a crash of this severity," Zuby said. 

Toyota said in a statement provided to The Detroit News "the IIHS passenger-side small-overlap test is a severe, specialized test that goes beyond federal vehicle safety requirements."  The company added: "However, after the introduction of the small-overlap test, Toyota has taken steps to improve the performance of its vehicles in the test."

IIHS said intrusion was a factor in the Pacifica's rating in the passenger-side crash tests. The group said marginal ratings for structure kept it from achieving a "good" rating in that test.

"Measures from dummy sensors indicated low risk of injury, helping to offset the less-than-stellar structural rating," the IIHS said of the Pacifia's performance. 

The Odyssey also outperformed other minivans in a new test that looks how easy it is to lock-in child restraints with the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system. The Honda minivan achieved a "good+" rating in the LATCH test, while the Sienna, Dodge Caravan and Kia Sedona received "acceptable" ratings. The Pacifica received a "marginal" latch rating. 

“Since minivans often serve as family haulers, parents in the market for a new one also should keep in mind where their kids will sit, especially if more than one needs a child restraint,” Zuby said.

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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