Minivan sales have been declining gradually but steadily over the past decade or so. Part of it stems from a soccer-mom image some find objectionable, part from the fact that many midsize SUVs are 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 about 18 city/26 highway being the norm.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2020
After the relatively recent redesigns in the minivan class (the Chrysler Pacifica debuted for 2017, and the fifth-generation Honda Odyssey followed as a 2018 model) there’s not much new to report for 2020. Chrysler revives the Voyager nameplate on entry-level and fleet-market versions of the Chrysler Pacifica (the Voyager name was previously used from the 1980s to the 2000s on minivans from Chrysler and the now-defunct Plymouth brand). The 2020 Voyager essentially takes the place of the previous Pacifica L and LX models in Chrysler’s minivan lineup.
Toyota is reportedly readying a redesigned, fourth-generation version of its Sienna minivan on the company’s TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform. The new van is likely to appear as a 2021 model; the Sienna saw its last full redesign in 2010 for the 2011 model year.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
The Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager, 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 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.