Minivans have waned in popularity somewhat 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 near $30,000. As with many other classes of vehicles, minivans offer a tremendous number of luxury and convenience features that can push the bottom line close to (or beyond) the $50,000 mark. These include power liftgates,
dual-screen entertainment systems, power-folding seats, and modern safety features such as wide-angle rearview cameras and collision mitigation systems.

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/26 highway being about the norm.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019

Ford’s cargo-van-based Transit Connect gets slightly refreshed exterior styling and two new engines: a 2.0-liter gasoline 4-cylinder and, later in the model year, a 1.5-liter turbodiesel four. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission instead of the previous 6-speed. Interior updates include new seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and available Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. Forward collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian detection is a new standard feature, and adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors are all newly available.

The Kia Sedona gets a mild refresh that includes a new front fascia (which brings the Sedona’s look more in line with Kia’s current design motif), revised interior trim, new wheel designs (in 17-, 18-, and 19-inch sizes), and an 8-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 6-speed automatic. Newly available Sedona features include a wireless smartphone charger, electronic parking brake, a USB charging plug for third-row occupants, and an all-new rear-seat entertainment system with twin touchscreens and smartphone-mirroring capability.

The Toyota Sienna gets available Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay capability (but not Android Auto) and all-wheel drive is now available on the sporty SE model. The Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid see minor trim revisions, and the Dodge Grand Caravan is unchanged. The Honda Odyssey is also unchanged after its redesign last year.

MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL

The Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan offer a handy, class-exclusive feature in their available Stow ‘n Go second-row seats that fold into the cargo floor. The Honda Odyssey has available Magic Slide multi-position second-row seats that slide both fore and aft and side to side. The Toyota Sienna is the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, which is now available in all trim levels except the base L model. The Chrysler Pacifica is the only minivan to offer a hybrid model.

The Ford Transit Connect is the most atypical member of the category. Based on a commercial cargo van platform, it’s smaller than the rest of the class, but still laudably spacious inside. It comes in a regular-length 5-passenger version, or a long-wheelbase 6-or-7-passenger version. The rest of the class comes standard with V6 power, while the Transit Connect offers only 4-cylinder engines.