EPA ratings aren’t always top of mind for the segment’s shoppers, but the best fuel-efficient minivans do return noticeable advantages over the worst. Consider: Looking at the combined fuel-economy marks of the traditional minivan contenders, the most economical choices provide nearly 16 percent higher EPA grades and, overall, they save customers some $1,500 in five-year fuel costs. And the two minivan alternatives on this list are even more frugal when it comes to fuel usage. It’s also worth noting that while today’s next-gen crossovers can surpass modern-day minivans in terms of fuel efficiency, the latter continue to offer the unmatched interior versatility—and cabin space—that are the key purchase factors for most folks here.
Chrysler Town & Country
The 2015 Chrysler Town & Country touts an award-winning Pentastar V6 engine that serves up a best-in-class 283 hp, a robust 260 lb.-ft. of torque and EPA ratings of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined, all due to significant efforts from Chrysler engineers. Thus, the Town & Country also features standard low-rolling-resistance tires, complemented by low-drag brake calipers and rear bearing, and there’s even a dedicated “fuel economizer” driving mode that was developed to help owners squeeze every last mile from every last drop of gas. Meanwhile, the 2016 model ups the ante with a 90th Anniversary Edition—to help celebrate a major Chrysler milestone—while then retaining its position among the most fuel-efficient minivans in the industry.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Much the same goes for the 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan as for its corporate cousin, the Chrysler Town & Country, except perhaps the whole “going forward” thing: The Grand Caravan isn’t expected to see a next-gen version in the near future, although it stands out today for serving up both a powerful 283-hp Pentastar V6 and its EPA line of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. Oh, and there is one other big difference between the Dodge and the Chrysler—and the rest of the “regular” minivans—since the Grand Caravan is priced at $21,795 and that’s by far the lowest MSRP in the class. In fact, the Dodge has a discount of $5,400 as compared to its next least expensive rival.
No. 1 among the most fuel-efficient minivans is the 2015 Honda Odyssey, backed by its highway fuel-economy rating of 28 mpg. No other traditional minivan can hit that mark, and it helps the Odyssey also achieve a two-way tie for minivan leadership in EPA combined driving, with a benchmark of 22 mpg, and further return a relatively strong 19 mpg in the city. At the same time, the Odyssey relies on a standard 3.5-liter V6 that can furnish drivers with 248 hp and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, with that output managed by a six-speed automatic transmission. Ensuring that unique blend of power and efficiency: Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management technology, capable of shutting off two or three engine cylinders, depending on driving conditions, to maximize miles per gallon.
Beneath its surprisingly stylish sheetmetal, the 2016 Kia Sedona will arrive in dealerships for its sophomore selling season with three distinct fuel-economy choices: The standard Sedona—now supplying a rearview camera system and updated seating surfaces fresh from the factory—can leverage its 3.3-liter V6 engine and six-speed SportMatic transmission for 276 hp, 248 lb.-ft. of torque, and EPA results of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. With the same engine and more uplevel content, the more efficiency-focused Sedona SX can reach 18 mpg city/25 mpg/21 mpg combined. The range-topping SXL edition gets packed with yet more premium standard features, including climate-controlled first- and second-row seating in premium Nappa leather, but an EPA line of 17/22/19.
As you might have guessed, the 2015 Mazda Mazda5, which is about 20 inches shorter in length than a traditional minivan, can translate its smaller proportions into higher fuel economy results. More specifically, Mazda’s mini minivan can realize EPA scores of 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined. That means the Mazda also leads the most fuel-efficient minivans for city and combined fuel economy, and that’s on top of the vehicle’s fairly well-composed driving dynamics. Moreover, because the Mazda5 is about the size of a compact Sedan on the outside—even as it can swallow more than 44 cubic feet of cargo behind its second row on the inside—drivers enjoy the further fuel-saving benefits of a four-cylinder engine (furnishing 157 hp and 163 lb.-ft. of torque).
As is the case with almost everything except sales numbers, the 2015 Nissan Quest serves up superior fuel-economy scores as compared to the average minivan, and it does so while still stocking a standard 3.5-liter V6. Indeed, that engine is good for outputs of 260 hp and 240 lb.-ft. of torque, yet also rings ups an EPA line of 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined. The Nissan minivan additionally showcases relatively affordable pricing that’s right in the sweet spot of the segment, but also satisfies customer hunger for available upgrades like “Quick Comfort” heated front seats and blind-spot warning with moving-object detection. Needless to say, all that helps the Quest qualify as one of the best fuel-efficient minivans in the country.
The Swagger Wagon boasts the only available all-wheel-drive powertrain among the best fuel-efficient minivans, though that setup, rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined, is at the lower end of our list. On the other hand, drivers who configure the 2015 Toyota Sienna with front-wheel drive, like the rest of its competitors, welcome an extra 2 mpg in all phases of fuel-economy testing. And at that point, the Toyota’s overall EPA line is a middle-of-the-class 18/25/21, thanks to a 3.5-liter V6 that can unleash 260 hp and 245 lb.-ft of torque. There’s nothing middling about content like the “Easy Speak” system, however; that exclusive technology can project the driver’s voice through the vehicle’s audio speakers for improved in-cabin communication.
Ford Transit Connect Wagon
Finally, we come to the Blue Oval’s un-minivan: the 2015 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. Essentially a retail version of Ford’s popular city-sized commercial Van, the Transit Connect Wagon comes in two- and three-row configurations, with regular- and extended-length wheelbases, and while they’re both shorter than traditional minivans, both provide much more space than other likely alternatives. For our purposes, they also offer notably higher EPA scores than the best fuel-efficient minivans. In the standard model, for example, the available 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine pumps out 178 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, then features fuel economy grades of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. A standard 2.5-liter—rated at 169 hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque—goes 20/28/23 in both wheelbase lengths.