The 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan has drawn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top safety designation for the vehicle’s “good” performance in all five IIHS crash evaluations, including the challenging small overlap front test.

IIHS rates vehicles “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal” or “poor” based on performance in the moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear crash evaluations.

The 2014 Odyssey is the first minivan IIHS has evaluated in the small overlap front test. Honda asked the institute to test the Odyssey to highlight structural changes the automaker made to improve occupant protection in a small overlap front crash. When IIHS conducts a test at a manufacturer's request, the automaker reimburses IIHS for the cost of the vehicle.

Honda introduced the upgraded Odyssey as a 2014 model. While there are no major styling changes, the new model has advanced high-strength steel in the front door frames, floor pan and front wheel wells for a more rigid occupant compartment. The side curtain airbags extend farther forward to offer comprehensive head protection in both a side crash and a small overlap front crash. Even with these modifications, the Odyssey's weight didn't change much because Honda engineers were able to reduce weight elsewhere to compensate for the strengthened structure.

"Safety is high on the list for parents when it comes to shopping for a family vehicle," IIHS President Adrian Lund said. "Consumers look for models with the highest safety ratings. Honda is ahead of many of its competitors in building state-of-the-art crashworthiness into its vehicles."

Honda and Acura brands have earned six Top Safety Pick + awards among 20 current models that IIHS has rated. They are the Honda Accord 2-door and 4-door, Civic 2-door and 4-door, Odyssey and Acura TL. Winners must earn “good” ratings for occupant protection in four of five evaluations and no less than “acceptable” in the fifth test.

IIHS added the small overlap test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

In the Odyssey test, the driver's space was maintained reasonably well. Injury measures on the dummy indicated a low risk of injury in a crash of this severity, IIHS said. Because the structure helped keep the steering column stable, the front airbag stayed in front of the driver dummy during the crash to provide good protection. The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with the side structure and outside objects.