After a spate of minivan redesigns in 2010 and 2011, very little has changed in the minivan segment for 2012. Unsurprisingly then, reviewer sentiment hasn't wavered from the notion that the 2012 Honda Odyssey (Base MSRP: $28,225 to $43,675) is the best minivan available.
Last year's full overhaul of the Odyssey introduced more interior room, fresher exterior styling, and a wide variety of conveniences, amenities, and desirable technology features to a vehicle that was still earning rave reviews pre-redesign.
Reviewers say that the Honda Odyssey offers better ride quality and handling than the rest of the minivan crop, and its standard V6 engine delivers an excellent balance of performance and fuel economy. That, combined with its inherent family-friendliness (it can accommodate up to five child seats using LATCH connections), means it's still the van to beat.
The 2012 Toyota Sienna (Base MSRP: $25,060 to $40,570) is easily the top runner up to the Odyssey. The Toyota minivan generally finishes behind the Honda in comparison tests, but still gets high marks in individual reviews, and it is still the only minivan on the market that offers all-wheel drive. If that's a key buying consideration, it makes the Sienna the easy (and only) pick over the Honda Odyssey.
The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country (Base MSRP: $29,995 to $39,300) is yet another capable runner up, especially following last year's extensive facelift that saw the addition of a new V6 engine (the most powerful offered in any minivan) and a greatly improved interior, from overall layout to materials used. As with the Honda and Toyota, Chrysler's minivan can be outfitted with an abundance of family-friendly optional equipment and technology; it just trails the two Japanese vans in reviewers' eyes because it isn't as rewarding to drive.
The 2012 Nissan Quest (Base MSRP: $25,990 to $42,350) gets decent reviews overall, but isn't called out as a top contender as frequently as the Honda or Toyota, both of which usually finish ahead of it in comparison tests. The Quest's interior packaging is different as well, and it doesn't quite match the space offered by the Odyssey or Sienna.
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan (Base MSRP: $27,020 to $44,280) is essentially a VW-badged version of the Chrysler Town & Country. Despite pricing that eclipses even the top-rated Odyssey, it is largely left out of the conversation when reviewers discuss the best minivans.
While the top minivans overall have price ranges that run anywhere from $25,000 to around $40,000, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan (Base MSRP: $20,995 to $29,995) undercuts the lot of them while offering all the space and features that make families look to minivans in the first place.
The Grand Caravan benefits from many of the same changes given to its upscale twin, the Chrysler Town & Country, last year, including a more muscular V6 and a vastly improved interior. As with the Chrysler, reviewers say the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna have smoother engines and a better overall drive experience, but unlike the similar Town & Country, which is priced on the same level as the Odyssey, the Dodge makes up for any deficiencies with a starting price that undercuts the Honda by more than $7,000. The Grand Caravan, like the Town & Country, employs Chrysler's unique "Stow ‘n' Go" seating that easily folds completely into the floor. With the seats stowed, the Dodge can accommodate a staggering 144 cubic feet of cargo, which tops not only most minivans, but many large SUVs as well. .
According to reviewers, the 2012 Kia Sedona (Base MSRP: $24,900 to $29,190) is also a good budget minivan alternative, with a commendable standard feature list, but a reading of the reviews shows that the cheaper Dodge Grand Caravan has more to offer overall.
Finally, the freshly restyled 2012 Mazda Mazda5 (Base MSRP: $18,379 to $22,495) is a unique budget alternative. It's easily the cheapest minivan to buy overall, but it's also smaller than competing models detailed above. Some call the Mazda5 a compact minivan or "microvan," a class of vehicle more popular in Europe. The Mazda's compact dimensions mean that it can only hold six passengers at most and that cargo capacity is smaller than the competition. Reviewers have always been fond of the Mazda5's nimble handling -- it's more fun to drive than the standard-sized vans. That said, larger families are better suited with any of the other larger vans mentioned in this report, as they offer more practicality than the diminutive Mazda.
Best Reviewed Minivans:
Best minivan overall: 2012 Honda Odyssey (Base MSRP: $28,225 to $43,675)
Best budget minivan: 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan (Base MSRP: $20,995 to $29,995)
Runner-up best overall minivan: 2012 Toyota Sienna (Base MSRP: $25,060 to $40,570)
Runner-up best overall minivan: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country (Base MSRP: $29,995 to $39,300)
Runner-up budget minivan: 2012 Kia Sedona (Base MSRP: $24,900 to $29,190)
Runner-up budget minivan: 2012 Mazda Mazda5 (Base MSRP: $18,379 to $22,495)
2012 Volkswagen Routan (Base MSRP: $27,020 to $44,280)
2012 Nissan Quest (Base MSRP: $25,990 to $42,350)