Minivans have taken a bit of a hit in recent years. Part of it stems from an image some find objectionable, part from the fact that many midsize SUVs are now available with three rows of seats that make them competitive from a people-packaging standpoint. But the reality is that nothing can rival a minivan for sheer space utilization and cost per cubic foot.

Pricing for most minivans starts in the mid to high 20s. As with many other classes of vehicles, minivans now offer a tremendous number of luxury and convenience features that can push prices well into the $40,000 range. These include power liftgates, dual-screen entertainment systems, power-folding seats, and up-to-the-minute safety features such as wide-angle rearview cameras and rear cross-traffic alert.

Although there are exceptions, the general template for minivans includes a V6 engine, automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, three rows of seats (with the 3rd row typically folding into the floor), and dual sliding rear-side doors. Even the least-expensive ones include a host of standard equipment that makes them transportation bargains, even if you don’t need the space. The downside is that fuel economy isn’t great, with EPA ratings of 18 city/25 highway being about the norm.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2017

The Chrysler Town and Country is replaced by an all-new minivan named Pacifica, while Dodge Grand Caravan production will likely wind down after this year. The Ford Transit Connect gets the Sync 3 infotainment system and other new standard features in the top-line Titanium model. The Toyota Sienna gets a revised V6 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission. A redesigned Honda Odyssey is slated to debut in the near future, but detailed 2017 info was not available at press time. Info on the 2017 Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest was also unavailable, but we don’t predict any major changes.