2017 Minivan Shopping Guide

© FCA US LLC; Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.; Rod Hatfield; FCA US LLCIt’s a Van
Thanks to the popularity of SUVs, American car buyers continue to choose three-row SUVs and crossovers as family haulers, although for many the best choice could easily be a different vehicle. Offering access, interior volume and drivability superior to many SUVs, a minivan can readily meet the myriad needs of busy families. Here’s the rub: It’s a van. To attract more buyers, automakers have added more style, safety features, entertainment systems and the latest technology to today’s minivans. Let’s take a look at the current offerings for the 2017 model year.

© FCA US LLC2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler’s all-new Pacifica started the new year winning the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. The latest minivan from the company that introduced the original Dodge Caravan, the Chrysler Pacifica went on sale in spring 2016 to replacing the aging Town & Country. Unlike that original box on wheels, the Pacific offers a lot more style, sophistication and innovation, including hands-free activation of the sliding passenger doors and rear hatch, making Pacifica one of the best family vehicles on the road. Second-row passengers have comfortable bucket seats, with an optional jump seat in the second row for a total of eight seats.

© FCA US LLC2017 Chrysler Pacifica
The Pacifica’s Uconnect Theater has large 10-inch high-res touchscreen displays on the backs of the front seatbacks that can be folded away when not in use. Passengers enjoy movies via the Blu-ray/DVD player, or even stream video from a smartphone, tablet or other personal electronic device. This modern-day minivan can also be equipped with an Advanced SafetyTec Group package that includes brake assist, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, a Surround View camera system and ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist. Power comes from a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine producing 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque — slightly more on both counts than the Town & Country it replaces. Pacifica’s EPA fuel economy rating is 28 mpg on the highway, 18 mpg in the city.

© FCA US2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Chrysler also offers a plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica. As America’s first-ever hybrid minivan, Pacifica has a unique powertrain combining the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gas engine with two electric motors. For the hybrid version, the Pentastar V6 runs on the Atkinson-cycle combustion system for improved efficiency, combined with the dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission to deliver an estimated 33 miles of all-electric range with a top speed of 75 mph. Total system output is 260 horsepower — slightly lower than the 287 horses of the gas-powered Pacifica. According to the U.S. EPA, Pacifica Hybrid’s fuel economy in electric mode is rated at 84 MPGe. The official EPA figure for driving in hybrid mode is 32 mpg combined.

© FCA US2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
The Pacifica Hybrid’s electric power comes from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stored under the second-row floor. Passenger and cargo capacity are not affected by the battery pack thanks to the underfloor storage. Third row Stow ‘n Go seat storage remains, but the second-row Stow ‘n Go capability gets lost to the battery pack, although second-row seats can be removed to create a flat load floor. New technology includes a smartphone app that allows the driver to check charge status, schedule charging and find charge station locations. Standard Hybrid Electric Pages include power flow illustration, driving history and charge scheduling. The Pacifica Hybrid regenerative braking system collects energy to charge the lithium-ion battery and provide additional range.

© FCA US LLC2017 Dodge Grand Caravan
The original minivan, the Dodge Grand Caravan had a 25 percent increase in sales for 2016, finishing just behind the top-selling Toyota Sienna for the year. Like its competitors, the 2017 Grand Caravan offers more style, versatility and technological innovation than any other time in its 30-year history. The lineup has been simplified down to four trim levels: SE, SE Plus, SXT and GT. The standard engine for all trim levels is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 283 horsepower, combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission to deliver EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highway / 20 mpg combined.

© FCA US LLC2017 Dodge Grand Caravan
The new entry-level SE features standard keyless entry, heat/air conditioning for all three rows, third-row Stow ‘n Go with available tailgate seating, a 6.5-inch touchscreen radio with ParkView backup camera, power heated mirrors, electronic stability control, seven airbags and trailer sway damping. The SE Plus adds a Blacktop Appearance Package, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, second-row Super Stow ‘n Go and Uconnect Handsfree Group. The Grand Caravan SXT adds 17-inch polished wheels, fog lights, a power driver’s seat, power sliding doors, a power liftgate and Stow ‘n Place roof rack. Grand Caravan GT replaces the R/T for 2017 with a monochromatic exterior, performance suspension, 17-inch polished wheels and leather seats with red stitching.

© Ford Motor Company2017 Ford Transit Connect Wagon
The Transit Connect functions primarily as a small commercial vehicle, but Ford also offers the Transit Connect Wagon for people moving. Dual sliding doors are standard on all trim levels — XL, XLT and Titanium — and the TCW will accommodate five, six or seven occupants depending on the wheelbase (short or long). For 2017 a reverse sensing system becomes standard and a short-wheelbase Titanium trim gets added to the mix. Ford’s SYNC 3 with navigation and a 6.5-inch touchscreen are standard on the Titanium and optional on the XLT trim level, with new premium packages for both Titanium and XLT.

© Ford Motor Company2017 Ford Transit Connect Wagon
The standard engine for all Transit Connect Wagons is a 169-horsepower 2.5-liter Duratec four cylinder combined with a 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, earning EPA fuel-economy ratings up to 27 mpg highway. The Transit Connect Wagon XLT features a 6-way power driver’s seat, SYNC, a rearview camera, automatic headlights and carpeted floor mats. Short-wheelbase versions include a 3-passenger second-row 60/40 bench seat that can fold, flip or tumble to accommodate passengers or cargo. Long-wheelbase versions accommodate up to seven passengers with second- and third-row seats that fold flat. A panoramic fixed-glass Vista Roof with a power shade is available on XLT and Titanium trim levels.

© Rod Hatfield2018 Honda Odyssey
One of the most popular minivan models with nearly 2.5 million sold since its debut in 1994, the Honda Odyssey finished 2016 third in sales behind the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Grand Caravan. That said, Honda debuted an all-new 2018 Odyssey at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in January, and it’s scheduled to go on sale in spring 2018. With an expressive new exterior design, the 2018 Odyssey adds style to a practical and functional family-vehicle option. The new “Magic Slide” second-row seat system offers multiple seat configurations and third-row access options. The center second-row seat can be removed, and the outboard seats can be moved laterally between five positions for third-row access. The outboard seats can be moved forward for maximum access; they can also be moved to the center for third-row access from either side.

© American Honda Motor Co., Inc.2018 Honda Odyssey
The 2018 Odyssey gets motivation from a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with a standard 9-speed automatic transmission or a 10-speed automatic for upper trim levels. The new Odyssey features advanced connectivity and entertainment with new Display Audio, CabinWatch, CabinTalk & streaming video with 4G LTE Wi-Fi. The new CabinControl app enables smartphone control of key vehicle systems as well as audio and rear-seat entertainment features. Inside, the new Odyssey features high-grade materials including a soft-touch instrument panel that incorporates a new 7-inch, full-color TFT display; an 8-inch high-resolution Display Audio touchscreen interface is available for EX and above.

© Kia Motors America2017 Kia Sedona
Redesigned for the 2015 model year, Sedona received styling similar to a crossover SUV without losing any functionality expected of a minivan. Subtle but important changes for 2017 include new steering wheel and gear-shift designs; Autonomous Emergency Braking for LX, EX, SX and SXL trim levels, and UVO3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added for LX and EX. Sedona SX and SXL trims add front-passenger power seats with remote driver operation, Dynamic Bending Light and Acoustic Windshield (optional on SX). A standout feature on the new Sedona is second-row “First Class” lounge seating that can be positioned for impressive legroom; it includes retractable lower legrests and airplane-style winged head restraints.

© Kia Motors America2017 Kia Sedona
Kia also offers YES Essentials fabric technology for the Sedona, which provides protection from spills with stain-repelling and stain-releasing fabric — a great feature if messy kids take up residence in back. And if cargo carrying is high on your list of people mover must-haves, the second-row seats also fold up against the front row, and with the third row folded into the floor Sedona provides plenty of cargo-carrying capacity. Another cool feature is the automatic rear liftgate — stand behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket and the liftgate magically opens.

© Nissan North America, Inc.2017 Nissan Quest
The latest generation of the Quest was introduced in 2011 and remains primarily unchanged for the 2017 model year. Although Quest does not rival minivans from Toyota or Chrysler in terms of sales volume, it still holds its own with plenty of interior space and a number of innovative, useful features. Entry is easy with a one-touch unlock/open of the powered sliding rear doors — especially convenient with full hands. Quest gets power from Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 producing 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, combined with a version of Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission with D-Step Shift Logic and Adaptive Shift Control for a smooth, responsive feel.

© Nissan North America, Inc.2017 Nissan Quest
For 2017 Nissan Quest is offered in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum, ranging from basic transportation to a high level of luxury with leather-appointed seats, Bose audio and wood-tone trim. Inside, Quest has theater-style seating — the second and third rows are slightly raised to provide better visibility, as well as convenient viewing of the 11-inch entertainment-system display screen. Dual glass sunroofs help third-row occupants feel less claustrophobic, and a conversation mirror at the front keeps those banished to the rear seats in constant view of the driver. Of course, the Quest may not always be hauling people — all seats fold flat to provide much usable cargo space.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.2017 Toyota Sienna
Toyota Sienna finished 2016 as the top-selling minivan by a narrow margin over the Dodge Grand Caravan, although a new, more powerful V6 engine and improved fuel economy will add appeal for 2017. With an additional 30 horsepower compared to the 2016 model, the 2017 Sienna has a new 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 296 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, combined with a new direct-shift 8-speed automatic transmission to achieve EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city / 27 mpg highway / 22 mpg combined. Although other minivans have offered all-wheel drive in the past, Sienna is currently the only AWD minivan on the market — perhaps making it even more appealing to those who desire a crossover.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.2017 Toyota Sienna
Appealing to drivers who desire a sportier ride, the Sienna SE features a sport-tuned suspension; 19-inch wheels and tires; projector-beam headlights, LED daytime running lights; side skirts; smoke-look trim; sport instrumentation; and heated leather seats with white stitching. There are plenty of other reasons to get into a Sienna, including Driver Easy Speak, which uses the microphone from the voice-command multimedia system to broadcast to the audio system’s rear speakers. The conversation mirror in the overhead console lets drivers see all goings-on behind them, so they’ll know when they need to intervene. But chances are those backseat passengers won’t be causing trouble once they become captivated by the available Blu-ray entertainment system with its 16.4-inch display.

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