In the latest crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, South Korean automaker Kia Motors Corp.'s redesigned 2006 Sedona minivan achieved the best score the group has ever awarded a minivan.
With the institute's top rating of "good" for front-, side- and rear-impact crashes, the Sedona outscored even the popular Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna models, long the industry leaders in crash safety ratings.
The nonprofit, Arlington, Va.-based institute also gave the Subaru Impreza compact sedan, except for the high-performance WRX models, a triple "good" rating, equaled only by Honda's Civic sedan, which was tested last year. Both cars have side-curtain air bags as standard equipment.
The insurance institute rates vehicles as "good," "acceptable," "marginal" or "poor," depending on the damage to crash-test dummies occupying the cars and trucks during tests.
In other results to be released today, the institute rated the Chevrolet Uplander minivan and its Buick Terraza, Saturn Relay and Pontiac Montana siblings as "marginal" for side-impact safety when equipped with optional side air bags and "poor" without the bags. The middle seat broke loose from two of its moorings in the Uplander model without side air bags; it separated from all four anchors in the model with the side protection.
General Motors Corp. already has developed a fix for the seats, institute President Adrian Lund said. The minivan will be retested when the new seat fastening system is installed in production models. The GM minivans were rated "good" for front-crash safety and "poor" for rear-crash protection of occupants, with and without the optional side-impact air bags.
In its test of a third new minivan, the institute rated the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans "acceptable" for side-impact protection when equipped with optional side-curtain air bags, and "poor" without them.
The institute also rated Toyota's Prius hybrid in new small-car tests. The Prius with optional side air bags -- which are in 96% of the models sold in the U.S., according to Toyota Motor Corp. -- was rated "good" in front- and side-impact tests and marginal in a rear collision. The side-impact rating dropped to "poor" in a model without the side air bags.
Ratings for more than 100 current model-year vehicles are available on the institute's website, at www.highwaysafety.org.