Today, a family car means either a car-based crossover SUV (“CUV”), or to a lesser degree a traditional truck-like sport-utility vehicle (SUV), or a minivan. All offer three rows of seating to accommodate up to seven or eight passengers and the latest in family-friendly features, including important accident-avoidance systems.
CUVs are the sales leaders among the three categories these days. CUVs have great appeal far beyond growing families. The compact and subcompact CUV models are being quickly snapped up by singles, young couples, and empty nesters. There are still a few traditional truck-based SUVs available. True SUVs stand out by virtue of their added off-road and towing abilities. Minivans are even fewer in numbers. Minivans are probably the ideal family rides but they appear to be saddled with a dreary, soccer mom persona.
While minivans are arguably the ultimate family cars, with sliding side doors, roomy three-row interiors, and a long list of available amenities, most buyers these days shun the minivan for its perceived “soccer mom” notion in favor of the brawnier-looking CUVs.
According to a 2018 US New & World Report ranking, the following are the top five safest minivans:
- Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona tied for first,
- Chrysler Pacifica,
- Toyota Sienna, and
- Dodge Caravan rounded out the top five safest minivans.
Interestingly, these are the top five safest minivans because these are the only five minivan models still sold in the United States. Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan and Mazda have all abandoned manufacturing minivans due to sagging sales. Blame rests squarely on the continuing rise in popularity of sport utility vehicles and crossovers.
SUV popularity does not appear to be slowing down, either. Chevrolet now has six SUVs in its stable when the 2019 Blazer hit showrooms last year. BMW has seven for purchase with the X1 through X7.
Our love affair with SUVs and crossovers has pushed minivan sales downward every year. But, sales of sedans have fallen even further. So, in a way, minivans are holding their own against the SUV juggernaut.
U.S. New & World Report, “Best Cars”, February 19, 2019
SUVs are styled like tall station wagons and borrow some of their design from the original sport-utility vehicles, which were little more than enclosed pickup trucks.
Car and Driver gave all of the following SUVs equal top ranking for safety. All received the highest rating from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with its five-star overall crash-test rating and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ award. In alphabetical order:
- Acura RDX
- Hyundai Sante Fe
- Kia Sorento
- Mazda CX-5
- Mercedes-Benz GLC class
- Mercedes-Benz GLE class
- Subaru Ascent
- Subaru Crosstrek
So, which one is safer, minivan or SUV?
When it comes to a blanket assessment of minivan vs SUV in terms of safety, the difference is barely noticeable. When researching for this article, I was surprised to find that there was no clear-cut winner. Both types of vehicles are well known for their safety features. Each has its pros and its cons and neither is necessarily right for everyone.
However, some experts argue that their large size affords them an additional layer of security and protection when compared to smaller cars. It is expected that the vehicle with the larger mass and heavier frame will always survive better than the smaller and lighter vehicle. It also depends on what you hit or what hits you.
Different models offer their own unique safety features. For example, SUVs usually provide higher seating above the roadway. This feature can give the driver a much better view of the road. On the other hand, minivans are built on much lower platforms. The minivans’ lower platform makes them much less likely to roll over in accidents.
Most safety experts suggest that you look at your driving history and assess where you need the most safety. Then, choose your model based on your travel expectations.
In the end, vehicle safety and crash survivability depend as much or more on how and where we drive than what we drive. Driving practices such as seat belt usage, alcohol consumption, how often we drive, how fast we drive, and the type of roadway are the major factors in determining auto safety. The big advantage: All of these items are totally in your control. Keep these factors in mind and you can achieve a better family survival rate than you would get from choosing any automobile from a safety list.
Car and Driver, “The 8 Crossover SUVs with the Best Safety Ratings”, January 29, 2019.