Safest Family Vehicles for 7 or 8 Passengers in 2018
Are safety and seating at least a few kids your most important considerations when selecting a new vehicle? You aren’t alone! SafeDad helps shorten the list of dozens of very safe 7+ passenger vehicles to just a handful of the safest for 2018. Also, see last year’s awards for Safest 5-Passenger SUVs, Safest Family Sedans and Safest Used Cars with updates coming soon for 2018.
For 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety not only requires a “Good” result in the driver-side small overlap crash test to qualify for a “Top Safety Pick+” rating, but now also requires a “Good” headlight rating as well an “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test. Many vehicles have not had this new test, so they may only earn a “Top Safety Pick” award in 2018. The IIHS also demands a front crash prevention system. These systems are not all created equal; some are only basic warnings that no longer qualify for an award, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and some are more likely to avoid a crash than lesser systems. To earn IIHS awards, an auto-brake system with an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating is still required. Note that even models that qualify with these systems may not actually have them available on anything but the highest trim levels with pricey options packages, so we help you sort through trim levels to find the right ones!
The NHTSA ratings remain the same, but they no longer allow consumers to see details of individual crash test results for each vehicle. Instead, you may now only see the overall rating and a composite frontal (driver and passenger tests) and side rating (driver, passenger and rear pole impact tests).
Subaru and Honda have set a nice trend for inexpensive advanced safety feature packages available on low and mid trim levels. This year, we again recognize Toyota for making all these features standard on all trim levels of many of their vehicles. That means even the least expensive Highlander and Sienna models now have advanced crash avoidance features in 2018, making these important improvements to safety easy to find on dealer’s lots!
Many publications use only either the NHTSA crash tests OR the IIHS ratings as the basis for their recommendations, leaving an incomplete assessment of overall safety. Some are subjective and apply different standards based on personal preferences or corporate sponsors. So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards? It’s very simple and completely objective:
What 3-row vehicles make the cut to qualify for our awards? Due to new IIHS Top Safety Pick requirements, only 8 make the cut this year so far, down from 11 last year in this segment. Models that lack complete NHTSA testing but may be added to this list later include the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9. Others may be added or removed as test results from the IIHS and NHTSA are updated, as many have not yet been tested in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test. As a testament to how safe all these vehicles are for families, we recommend nearly all of the the 2018 qualifiers as well as those Honorable Mentions that fell a little short only in terms of the IIHS headlight ratings. The exception is the Mitsubishi Outlander, due to its relatively small size and various restrictions that make installations of multiple carseats more difficult than the others on the list. If your vehicle is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe! That said, here are the finalists:
- 2014-2018 Acura MDX
- 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica
- 2018 Honda Odyssey
- 2016-2018 Honda Pilot
- 2018 Kia Sorento
- 2018 Lexus RX
- 2017-2018 Mitsubishi Outlander
- 2017-2018 Toyota Highlander
For our top pick, we give preference to models that have already received a “Good” result in the newer passenger side small overlap crash test, as long as they received at least an “Acceptable” headlight rating and still qualify for the standard IIHS Top Safety Pick award.
And the Safest 2018 3-row Family Vehicle is:
2018 Honda Odyssey: At the time of this publication, the 2018 Odyssey is the only one of our qualifiers to receive a “Good” IIHS Small Overlap frontal crash test result for both driver and passenger sides. In addition, it has stellar results in all the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests. Its long overdue “Superior” front crash prevention system avoided crashes in both IIHS tests and is STANDARD on the EX trim level and up. The Odyssey’s only blemish is headlight coverage that kept it from an IIHS TSP “Plus” award, as it earned an “Acceptable” rating on Touring and Elite trims only.
While the EX and EX-L trims have only a “Marginal” headlight rating, they are still an impressive value for excellent safety with standard front crash prevention and top crash test results for around $34,000. Also, in our opinion, the Magic Slide feature is very handy, and Odyssey is still the best family hauler on the market in terms of fitting multiple child safety seats. In that regard, it’s also one of the few 3-row vehicles to earn the IIHS “G+” rating for ease of use with its LATCH car seat anchors.