General Motors via AP file
The 2005 Chevrolet Uplander and its corporate cousins — the Pontiac Montana SV6, pictured, the Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza — earned the top overall rating of good from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
updated 4/11/2005 8:34:40 AM ET 2005-04-11T12:34:40

The 2005 Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza, newly redesigned General Motors Corp. minivan models, offer better protection for occupants than do earlier versions, according to the results of crash tests conducted by the insurance industry.

The Uplander and its three corporate cousins earned the top overall rating of good from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, an industry funded organization.

The group, which released the test results on Sunday, noted that GM's earlier minivan designs were among the worst-performing vehicles in the institute's frontal offset crash tests.

For example, tests of the 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport found "massive collapse of the occupant compartment," with a test dummy's head snapping back violently and the dummy's metal foot breaking off, said Adrian Lund, the group's chief operating officer.

He contrasted that with the Uplander's performance: "The occupant compartment stayed intact, so the driver's survival space was well-maintained." Lund said it was "a huge improvement."

The institute gave the 1996-2005 models of the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari and the 1997-2005 models of the Pontiac Trans Sport, Pontiac Montana and Chevrolet Venture its lowest overall rating of poor.

The tests, performed under the same conditions, were last conducted in 1996.

The institute simulates a severe crash. A pickup or minivan strikes the front of a barrier meant to represent another vehicle of similar weight at 40 mph.

A poor rating means a high chance of serious injury in a similar crash. If a vehicle earns a good rating, it means a driver wearing a seat belt would most receive minor injuries in a similarly severe real-world crash.

In tests of small pickup trucks, four vehicles — the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier — were rated good. The Tacoma earned a "best pick" designation.

Three pickups — the Dodge Dakota, Ford Ranger and the Mazda B-Series — received the second-highest mark of acceptable in the frontal offset crash test performance. Lund said the pickups had improved from previous tests.

"The manufacturers are paying attention to these tests and making improvements in how small pickups protect people in serious frontal crashes," Lund said.

Alan Adler, a GM spokesman, said the company's midsize vans and compact pickups "offer excellent real-world crashworthiness and comprehensive safety before, during and after a crash."

He said GM's minivans from the 1997 to early 2005 model years have "excellent real-world safety performance" and were the first to offer side-impact air bags and safety features such as daytime running lamps in the headlights, which have helped reduce collisions between pedestrians and vehicles.

The Astro and Safari are scheduled to go out of production in May. The Trans Sport and Venture are no longer in production and are being replaced by the Uplander and similar models.

Among the minivans, the institute gave the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey its best pick in the frontal tests. The models received the top rating of good.

The Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country were rated acceptable in the reviews.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Crash test: Pontiac Transport faces test


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