Not Your Mother’s MiniVan
The original minivan market embodied car buyers who could have used the capacity of a full size van.
Original minivan buyers resisted the lack of responsiveness and parking limitations that came with full sized vans and embraced the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager in 1984 with relish. Many American car buyers valued the cargo space and seating space comparable to a full size van and purchased minivans because they wanted to drive cars as opposed to the truck platforms of full size passenger vans. The ability to park the car in garages and normal parking spaces as well as fuel efficiency was critical to the American consumer in 1984 as it is today. The sliding doors that prevented children from opening doors into other parked cars and the seating capacity are still the most popular features that were initially offered and are still standard on the newest models. The most popular mini vans today in order of reputation are the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Mazda 5 and the Dodge Caravan.
The 2013 Toyota Sienna ranks number 1 in reliability and safety. With plenty of space for both passengers and cargo, the Sienna comes standard with a V6 engine and 6 speed automatic transmission that delivers enough power for around town driving and highway cruising with a full load and still retain fuel efficiency of 18 miles per gallon around town and 25 mpg on the highway. The Sienna has comfortable seating for up to 8 people and also the cargo space needed for that many passengers. Other standard features include power windows, doors and a tri-zone air conditioning system. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rearview camera, Bluetooth and blind spot alert are available options. The interior comfort, cargo space and safety features are what put Toyota Sienna in the number 1 spot in spite of its marginal handling on curves and turns.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey is only number 2 because the standard offering includes a 5 speed automatic transmission as opposed to the 6 speed of its competition. Its V6 engine and fuel efficiency is also rated at 18 mpg around town and 25 mpg on the highway. The 2013 Odyssey seats up to 8 people and receives high marks for comfort and cargo space. The rear passenger seats fold down in a variety of ways to increase cargo area even more. It is reported that the Odyssey handles as well or better than the Sienna on turns and curves. A 6 speed automatic transmission is available as an option. Standard features include a rearview camera, USB port and Bluetooth. Available options are a cooling console, navigation, heated seats and wide screen DVD entertainment system for rear passengers. The price increases significantly as options are added.
The 2013 Mazda 5 is the lowest priced and smallest of the 2013 minivan roster. This sporty little minivan ranks higher than others because of its performance, not because of comfort and space. Mazda 5 includes a 4-cylinder engine with a 6 speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is available as an option. Its smaller size allows for more responsive handling than other minivans that have more power and space. The overall price and maintenance costs make the Mazda 5 the most affordable minivan on the market.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan is most valued for its cargo space, flexible interior and bottom line price. The Grand Caravan seats 7 and has a V6 engine with an automatic transmission. The 2nd row seats fold deep into the floor for even more cargo potential but the seats are not considered very comfortable. Standard equipment includes dual zone climate control and an extra audio jack. Bluetooth, navigation, rearview camera, rear seat entertainment and USB ports are available options.
The minivan is known for transporting people and cargo safely while still allowing drivers the comfort and security that a regular car chassis delivers. In the early days, the minivan was the perfect solution for drivers who needed van capacity but resisted the adjustments to driving required for a full size van that demanded a truck platform. For many drivers, the minivans of yore represented the transition from fun and sporty driving to accommodating family necessity. The transition was not acceptable to many drivers. The evolution of the minivan began with the introduction of a vehicle that transported families with safety and comfort. Children need space in vehicles to ride in comfort and safety in order to allow the driver minimal distraction in addition to their own safety. The minivan delivered a vehicle that was practical and affordable for families. Today’s minivan is chic and full of vitality, so much so that the minivan is also the top pick for many without human children.