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Insurance Institute: Safest small cars and minivans

Kia Sedona is safest minivan, Subaru Impreza does best in Insurance Institute crash tests of small cars.

April 17, 2006; Posted: 9:29 a.m. EDT (1329 GMT)

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The safest minivan isn't made by Honda, Toyota or Chrysler, according to recently completed tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Korean-made Kia Sedona earned the Institute's "Gold Top Safety Pick" award, getting top marks for front crash, side crash and whiplash protection.

The Institute recently completed its tests of 2006 model year minivans and small cars. The final results were announced Sunday.

Among small cars the Subaru Impreza, the closely-related Saab 9-2X and the Honda Civic were the best-performing small cars. Those cars also earned "Gold Top Safety Pick" awards.

The Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid vehicle was also tested and, when equipped with optional side airbags, got top marks for front and side impact protection. Without side airbags, however, its side impact protection was "Poor," the Institute said.

In its side impact test, the Insurance Institute hits the vehicle with a barrier that resembles the front of a sport utility vehicle or pick-up truck. That type of impact represents a much graver risk of head injury, and therefore a greater risk of death, than an impact from a car. Vehicles without head-protecting side airbags generally perform poorly in the Institute's side impact test.

The poorest-performing small cars were the Suzuki Forenza and Reno, Saturn Ion and Kia Spectra.

Those cars received the second-highest rating of "Acceptable" for front impact protection and ratings of "Poor" for side impact protection.

Minivans

The best-performing minivan was the Kia Sedona which also earned an overall "Gold Top Safety Pick" rating.

The Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest minivans all earned "Good" ratings for front and side impact protection. The Odyssey earned a "Marginal" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts while the Sienna and Quest were given "Poor" ratings.

The worst-performing minivans in these safety tests were the Dodge Caravan. the closely related Chrysler Town & Country and the Mazda MPV. Those minivans received "Acceptable" ratings for front impact protection and "Poor" ratings for side impact when tested without head-protecting side airbags. When tested with head protecting side impact airbags, the Caravan and Town & Country received "Acceptable" ratings for side impact protection. The Mazda MPV was not tested with side airbags.

When side airbags are optional on a vehicle, the Institute tests the vehicle without the airbags installed and will test it again with the airbags if the manufacturer requests the test and pays for the additional vehicle.

Safest small cars

These cars received top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for front and side impact protection.

Honda Civic (Gold Top Safety Pick)

Subaru Impreza/Saab 9-2X (Gold Top Safety Pick, excludes WRX and Aero versions.)

Toyota Prius ("Marginal" for whiplash protection)

Safest minivans

These cars received top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for front and side impact protection.

Kia Sedona (Gold Top Safety Pick)

Honda Odyssey ("Marginal" for whiplash protection)

Toyota Sienna ("Poor" for whiplash protection)

Nissan Quest ("Poor" for whiplash protection)

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