Formerly the darling of the family transportation segment, the minivan is clearly in decline these days. Ironically, there was a time when practically every mainstream auto manufacturer offered a minivan. Some companies (notably Volkswagen), in an effort to field an entry in what was then a highly lucrative area, even went so far as to cut deals with other manufacturers to rebrand existing models. Sad to say, those days are gone. Still, everything making the minivan a terrific family solution back then remains solidly relevant today. Car-like handling, seating for up to eight, power lift gates, 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. Currently though, there are but five such vehicles on offer.
Chrysler Town & Country
Though Chrysler didn’t invent the minivan, the company is credited with modernizing it, taking it mainstream, and ultimately being the progenitor of the minivan segment of the marketplace. Today, Chrysler’s Town & Country is one of the 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. Standard 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
Yes, Chrysler is credited with giving birth to the modern minivan segment, but the company did it with its Dodge and Plymouth brands. The Dodge Caravan was introduced alongside the Plymouth Voyager back in 1984. Over the years, the Caravan’s equipment list got a bit lengthier and so it was felt the “Grand” appellation would fit. Thus Caravan became the Grand Caravan. To get a power liftgate on today’s Grand Caravan, you’ll have to get one outfitted in SXT trim or better. Other SXT features include alloy wheels, roof rails, power rear windows, and power sliding doors. SXT options include a rearview camera, a Blu-ray based DVD rear seat entertainment system 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 SXT pricing starts at $27,195.
Honda Odyssey EX-L
Looking for a power liftgate with Honda’s Odyssey? You’ll have to spring for the EX-L version (or better) of the highly regarded minivan. We say highly regarded because most critics laud Odyssey as the best of the breed. 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 to 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. Odyssey EX-L pricing starts at $35,775.
To get a power liftgate on the new Kia Sedona, pick one up in EX trim. While most manufacturers have left the minivan segment to Toyota, Honda and Chrysler, Kia’s all-new version of its Sedona for the 2015 model year is a nice offering. In an effort to broaden Sedona’s appeal, Kia’s design team gave its minivan something of a crossover SUV profile. As a result, Sedona is easily the most handsomely styled minivan on the market. The 2015 Kia 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. Sedona’s front wheels are fed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard 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. Sedona EX starts at $32,100.
Toyota’s Sienna offers a power liftgate with the SE trim package and higher. Because the minivan segment, while boasting fewer models than in the past, continues to be something of a highly competitive environment, Toyota comes to market with a very unique feature. Of all the players in the minivan segment (OK, all five 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. Extensive standard features include a three-zone automatic climate control system, a touchscreen audio system, a rear view camera, blind spot monitoring, and automatic headlights. Toyota Sienna SE pricing starts at $35,785.