Minivan Shopping Guide

Minivans 2016Enduring People Movers
A scant few years ago it looked as if the popularity of crossover SUVs would make minivans obsolete once and for all. Although vans were considered less cool or attractive than the sporty new SUVs with their off-road capability, one simple fact has kept minivans on the American market: they remain the best tool for the job of carrying families, teams and other groups of people. And lately American car shoppers seem to agree, since minivan sales are up more than 30 percent so far this year compared to last year, and there’s plenty of new features and technology available. Here’s a look at what’s new this year in the utilitarian world of versatile minivans.

© FCA US2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Base MSRP: $28,595
The Pacifica is an all-new minivan for the 2017 model year, and with fresh styling and a slew of innovations it is arguably the best minivan Chrysler has built since it created the category more than 30 years ago with the Dodge Caravan. Pacifica can be equipped with seating for up to eight occupants, which still leaves plenty of cargo space in the rear. Stow n’ Go seats can be folded into the floor for a completely flat cargo space all the way to the front seats. Passengers will enjoy the available Uconnect Theater with its 10-inch high-res touchscreen displays with a variety of inputs as well as integrated games. There’s even an available Stow ‘n Vac — a powerful vacuum cleaner located conveniently behind the second row, and easily accessible from the door opening.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Power is plentiful in the Pacifica with a 3.6-liter V6 engine putting out 287 horsepower teamed with a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 18 in the city, 28 on the highway. With a wider stance than most other minivans on the market, the Pacifica offers impressive handling for a vehicle of its size. Loading is also much more convenient with hands-free opening of the rear hatch and sliding doors. Chrysler has also announced that a Pacifica Hybrid will be coming later this year — the first hybrid minivan on the market.

2015 Chrysler Town & Country2016 Chrysler Town & Country
Base MSRP: $29,995
Driving a minivan doesn’t mean you have to give up all semblance of luxury — take the Town & Country. This Chrysler minivan is available in multiple levels of luxe, and for 2016 Chrysler is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a special Anniversary Edition of the brand’s versatile luxury van. Based on the Touring-L, this limited edition features a power sunroof, bright door handles, heated first- and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and Keyless Enter ‘n Go. Chrysler’s Uconnect system is standard on all Town & Country models; it has a very intuitive touchscreen and voice command for convenient media control, as well as a hands-free phone. Available Uconnect Web turns the Town & Country into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

2015 Chrysler Town & Country2016 Chrysler Town & Country
All Town & Country trims come standard with leather seats, three-zone climate control, powered sliding doors, a power liftgate, a premium audio system and Chrysler’s well-known Stow ‘n Go seats. There’s also plenty of storage throughout — as you’d expect in a minivan. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. This may be the last chance to purchase a Town & Country — with the introduction of the new Pacifica, we anticipate the Town & Country will be discontinued following the 2016 model year.

© FCA US LLC2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Base MSRP: $22,595
The Grand Caravan was the first modern-day minivan when it came to market in the 1984 model year, and it is fair to say that the Chrysler brands have perfected the formula. Not only is the Grand Caravan the least expensive minivan on the market, it’s currently the best-selling minivan in America. Part of its success comes from innovations such as exclusive Stow ‘n Go seats — rear seats can be folded completely flat into the floor via one-handed operation. High-end features include a Blu-ray entertainment system with 9-inch high-res video screens for the second- and third-row passengers.

© FCA US LLC2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
A 283-horsepower V6 engine is standard across the Grand Caravan line, so there shouldn’t be any complaints about having to drive an underpowered minivan, and fuel economy is a respectable 25 mpg on the highway. Grand Caravan can also tow up to 3,600 pounds. For a sportier look, Dodge offers the Blacktop Package, which features 17-inch polished aluminum wheels with Gloss Black pockets, a Gloss Black grille, black headlamp bezels, an all-black interior — including headliner, door panels and console — unique black cloth seats and door trim panels with silver accent stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with silver accent stitching and a leather shift knob.

© Ford Motor CompanyFord Transit Connect Wagon
Base MSRP: $24,825
It’s not quite a minivan — in fact Ford refers to it as the “un-minivan” — but the Transit Connect offers van versatility in a much smaller package. Unchanged for the 2016 model year, the Transit Connect has seating for up to seven occupants in the long-wheelbase version (the standard carries five) and with its tall roof design, Transit Connect offers great space for people and cargo. Dual sliding doors provide easy entry and exit, and in back buyers have the option of choosing either a standard liftgate or side-hinged swing-out doors.

© Ford Motor CompanyFord Transit Connect Wagon
The Transit Connect’s small size makes this a unique family hauler; it’s easier to drive and maneuver while still feeling spacious inside. Assisting in that maneuverability is an available rearview camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors. Transit Connect can also be set up for teen drivers — Ford’s exclusive MyKey technology can be programmed to limit top speed and audio volume, promote safety belt use and restrict incoming calls and texts to a paired cellphone.

© American Honda Motors2016 Honda Odyssey
Base MSRP: $29,400
Honda adds a new Special Edition to its Odyssey lineup for 2016, bringing the total number of trims offered to eight. The SE — priced at $33,500 — comes standard with many popular premium features such as a rear entertainment system, SiriusXM Radio and the HondaVac integrated vacuum cleaner. “Our Odyssey customers have told us some of the features they value most and we have packaged these in the new Odyssey SE model to create a special value edition that we know American families are going to love,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of Honda Sales.

© American Honda Motors2016 Honda Odyssey
The Odyssey continues to be powered by Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 248 horsepower, which provides enough power to tow up to 3,500 pounds. With its standard 6-speed automatic transmission the Odyssey is rated at 19 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway. With seating available for up to eight passengers, the Honda of minivans is available with popular features such as a rearview camera, tri-zone climate control, leather-trimmed power front seats and a high-end 650-watt audio system with Surround Sound Theater Mode.

© Kia Motors America2016 Kia Sedona
Base MSRP: $26,400
Sedona enters the 2016 model year with minimal changes. Redesigned last year, the van was updated with styling similar to a crossover SUV without losing any functionality expected of a minivan. One of the standout features on the new Sedona is second-row “First Class” lounge seating that can be positioned for impressive legroom; it includes retractable lower leg rests and airplane-style winged head restraints.

© Kia Motors America2016 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 you have messy kids sitting in back. If cargo carrying is high on your list of people mover must-haves, the second-row seats can also fold up against the front row, and with the third row folded into the floor the 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.

2015 Nissan Quest2016 Nissan Quest
Base MSRP: $26,580
The original Nissan Quest introduced in the early 1990s was quite small and shared a platform with the Mercury Villager (does anyone remember the Villager — or even Mercury?). This latest Quest was first introduced in 2011 and remains primarily unchanged for the 2016 model year. Quest may not have sales at the same level as entries from Chrysler or Toyota, but it 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 when your hands are full.

© Nissan North America2016 Nissan Quest
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 even 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 can be folded flat to provide much usable cargo space, and valuables can be stored out of sight in a covered storage bin in the rear cargo area.

© Toyota Motor Sales USA2016 Toyota Sienna
Base MSRP: $28,850
As one of the top-selling minivans on the U.S. market, the 2016 Toyota Sienna has changed very little from the prior year. Sienna comes well equipped with features including three-zone climate control as well as Toyota’s Entune audio system with applications including Yelp, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Pandora. And while other minivans have offered all-wheel drive over the years, the Sienna is currently the only AWD minivan on the market — perhaps making it even more appealing to those who wanted to buy a crossover.

© Toyota Motor Sales USA2016 Toyota Sienna
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. Presto, no more yelling at the kids in the back seat — or when you do yell, it will be even louder. 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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