There was a time in the not so distant past when practically every mainstream manufacturer had a minivan offering. Today, the number of family-oriented minivan builders has dwindled to merely seven. This makes assembling a list of the best family minivans a rather simple feat. These seven models survived because they are the best. Further, everything that made the minivan a terrific family solution back then remains solidly relevant today. Car-like handling, seating for up to eight, easy ingress and egress, sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle, outstanding versatility, and the capability of being outfitted with a broad array of family friendly features are just as important today as they were at the peak of the minivan’s popularity.
Chrysler Town & Country
Chrysler’s Town & Country is one of two remaining domestic minivans. Further, the Town & Country is one of the most luxurious examples of the genre. Power comes from a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 producing 260 ft-lbs of torque. The front-drive powertrain employs a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway, and 20 miles per gallon combined. Its features include dual power-sliding side doors and a power-operated rear hatch. Leather upholstery, Stow ‘n Go foldaway second-row seats, remote keyless entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth audio streaming and telephone connectivity are standard too. Available safety features include blind spot monitoring and rear cross path monitoring. Pricing starts at $29,995.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Caravan, introduced back in 1984, is the oldest surviving minivan nameplate in the US. Over the years, the Caravan’s equipment list steadily got more and more lengthy until eventually it was felt the “Grand” appellation would be apropriate. Thus, Caravan became the Grand Caravan. The Dodge Grand Caravan’s list of standard features includes alloy wheels, roof rails, power rear windows, and power sliding doors. Among the options are a rearview camera system, a Blu-ray based DVD rear seat entertainment setup, and blind spot monitoring. Power comes from Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 capable of 283 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission conducts power to the front wheels. For 2015, Dodge Grand Caravan pricing starts at $21,395.
Most critics laud Honda’s Odyssey as the breed’s best. Redesigned for the 2014 model year, Odyssey seats up to eight in a three-row configuration. The second row seats can be spread apart to keep kids out of reach of one another, or create a middle aisle to ease access to the third row. This kind of thinking is keeping Odyssey out in front of the pack. Power for the front-drive powertrain comes from a 248-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with 250 ft-lbs of torque flowing through a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity, power adjustable front seats, a 60/40 folding third row seat, and two-zone air conditioning. Honda Odyssey pricing starts at $28,975.
While most manufacturers left the minivan segment to Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Chrysler, Kia’s all-new Sedona is a nice offering. In an effort to broaden Sedona’s appeal, Kia’s design team gave it something of a crossover SUV profile. As a result, Sedona is easily the most handsome minivan on the market. Sedona also boasts a strong value story—as you’d expect from Kia. Power is generated by a 3.3-liter V6 producing 276 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs of torque. Its front wheels are fed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Available features include forward collapsing second row seats, a split-folding third row seat, rear air conditioning controls, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, rear parking sensors, and dual gloveboxes. Pricing starts at $26,100.
The smallest minivan currently out there, Mazda’s Mazda5 can also lay claim to the most engaging driving experience. Easy to park and maneuver, the Mazda5 boasts agility to go along with its third row of seats and easy to swallow price. You will forgo seating for seven or eight, as the Mazda5 is only good for six, but it more than makes up for it by being fun to drive. Power comes from a 2.5-liter inline four with 157 horsepower and 163 ft-lbs of torque. The front-driver uses a five-speed automatic transmission. Available features include keyless entry, remote start, DVD entertainment, cruise control, automatic climate control, a rear parking sensor array, automatic xenon headlights and Bluetooth. Pricing starts at $21,240.
Quietness, smoothness, sporty dynamics, and a broad array of active safety features make Nissan’s Quest minivan a strong consideration in this category. Giving the Quest a particular advantage in the interior flexibility department is the fact its second and third-row seats fold flat. While this does also mean less overall cargo space, you won’t have to wrestle with the seats trying to remove them. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 ft-lbs of torque. A continuously variable transmission routes power to the front wheels. Available features include video entertainment, keyless entry and ignition, and a smart tire-pressure monitoring system that beeps the horn when you’ve inflated a tire to its proper pressure. Pricing starts at $26,530.
Toyota’s Sienna comes to market with a very unique feature. Of all the players in the family minivan segment (OK, all seven of them), only one offers the option of an all-wheel drive powertrain—Toyota newly revamped Sienna. Power for Toyota’s family hauler comes from the same 3.5-liter V6 employed in the previous version of the minivan. Output is 266 horsepower and 245 ft-lbs of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed transmission, which feeds either the front- or all four wheels in all-wheel drive models. The Sienna’s extensive features list includes a three-zone automatic climate control system, a touchscreen audio system, a rear view camera, blind spot monitoring, video entertainment, and automatic headlights. Sienna pricing starts at $28,600.