Choosing a minivan
On the surface, most minivans look pretty much alike. There are the sliding
doors, second-row captain's chairs, entertainment options for the kids and
typically more cup holders than seven or eight passengers could possibly
But the best reviewers dig deeper and find some real differences. Here's
what the experts say to look for in a minivan:
- Note how easy it is to reconfigure
the interior for passengers or cargo. Most minivans hold seven to eight
passengers. Reviewers generally favor second- and third-row seats that
fold entirely into the floor. Most minivans have a third-row split seat
that folds flat, but not as many have fold-flat second-row seats. Ease
of reconfiguring the interior is a very important real-world consideration.
- Rear-seat passengers
should be part of your buying process. All the minivans covered here
generally offer good comfort for the driver and front passenger. Rear-seat
comfort can vary greatly, however, so bring along the people (like your
kids) who'll be forced to sit in them. Are the seats comfortable? Can children
see out the windows? These are all important considerations.
- Convenience is critical. Abundant rear cargo space and storage cubbies are great. In-floor storage
is even better because it can keep groceries out of the sun and toys
and other items better organized. Many minivans now include a power rear
liftgate, which reviewers say is a convenience that, once experienced,
consumers can't imagine being without.
- Comfort's important, too. Side window
sunshades that open and close at the touch of a button are especially
handy for shielding young passengers from the sun. Adjustable pedals and
a telescoping steering wheel are also musts to ensure you're able to find
a comfortably safe position behind the wheel.
- Different minivans have different
entertainment and technology options. Entertainment options for front and
rear passengers have advanced greatly in the last few years. In most cases,
shoppers will have one or more backseat entertainment features available
as optional equipment. In some cases, like the Honda Odyssey, there are
even widescreen displays that support high-definition video sources. Likewise,
the in-dash infotainment systems offered vary in their ergonomics and complexity.
If you plan to purchase any of these systems, be sure to thoroughly try
them out before making your purchase to ensure that they meet your expectations
in terms of ease of use.
- Consider advanced safety features. All minivans now have standard antilock brakes, traction control, electronic
stability control and a full complement of airbags (front, side and
curtain). Many minivans also offer backup warning sensors (or rearview
cameras) as standard or extra-cost options. Most testers say power sliding
doors are important, because heavy manual ones could roll shut and crush
minivan should drive more like a car than a truck. One of the reasons
minivans are popular is their car-like ride and handling. Obviously, a
test drive is necessary to determine whether the minivan's ride is sufficiently
smooth and comfortable for you and your clan.
- Almost all minivans today are front-wheel
drive, but reviewers say all-wheel drive (AWD) can deliver
better winter traction. That said, you don't have a lot of choice if AWD is essential.
The Toyota Sienna is currently the only minivan that offers all-wheel
drive as an option.