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Honda Odyssey minivan deemed safest in its class

A built-in vacuum cleaner is an option. But class-leading safety comes standard.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced Thursday that the 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan was the first vehicle in its segment to be named a Top Safety Pick Plus. 

The designation is the highest rating the IIHS -- an independent, nonprofit outfit -- hands out. To be eligible, a vehicle must earn "good" ratings in four out of five crash tests. It must also earn a rating of no less than "acceptable" in the fifth.

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The five crash simulations are moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover, and rear crashes.  

While the news is certainly a win for Honda, nearly all of the Odyssey’s competitors have fared well -- though not as well. The Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, and Toyota Sienna have all been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. 

“This is a minivan, so safety is more important to this segment than any other segment,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. 

Only the Nissan Quest failed to earn either of the top ratings from the IIHS. 

As the IIHS and other agencies implement more stringent crash tests, automakers are also seeing an opportunity to use positive results as a marketing tool, Brauer said.  

Despite Honda launching this generation of Odyssey in 2012, it made key changes to the 2014 model that helped it earn the Top Safety Pick Plus title. These included adding about 60 pounds of additional high-strength steel to key areas of the Odyssey’s structure that would offset the forces of a crash.  

Honda then asked the IIHS to conduct the test, and invited Brauer and others to watch. Many automakers, including Honda, run their vehicles through similar tests in their own facilities to insure they will get a passing grade. 

“Those automakers that go the extra step, they’re the ones who are going to have the rating first,” Brauer said. 

Despite the additional weight on the updated Odyssey, these Hondas are now the most fuel-efficient in their class, thanks to a six-speed automatic transmission being made standard on all models. 

An integrated vacuum cleaner is also now available on its loaded Touring Elite model, which sells for about $45,000. The Odyssey starts at just under $30,000. 

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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