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In this report

Evaluating new minivans

Minivans may not be flashy, but it's hard to argue with their inherent practicality. Other vehicles can try -- and some big crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot come close -- but none are simply as good at accommodating eight passengers, carrying mountains of cargo,,delivering car-like ride and handling, and keeping everyone inside entertained. Ultimately, most three-row midsize and large SUVs give up something to a comparably sized minivan, whether it's handling, usable space or fuel economy.

Back in 2009, Cars.com compared minivans and crossovers concluding that "minivans still get the advantage as the quintessential family-hauler," as they "have more interior room, as well as features targeted specifically to entertain second- and third-row passengers." In addition, minivans, with their wide-opening sliding doors, are just easier to get in and out of. Even little kids have no trouble clambering onboard thanks to low doorsills. Yes, if style is paramount, then a crossover or SUV will win out, but if you want the most useful vehicle for your family needs, nothing is better than a minivan.

Though there are only eight models on the market today, the competition is fierce. Nearly all are solid choices, and almost all have been redesigned within the last few years, including the best overall 2012 Honda Odyssey (Base MSRP: $28,225 to $43,675) and the 2012 Toyota Sienna (Base MSRP: $25,060 to $40,570) .

The latest crop of minivans is better-looking, more feature-laden and more fuel efficient than the selection offered just a couple of years ago.

We found a variety of excellent minivan reviews, each detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the various minivan nameplates. To find out which vans are the safest, most fuel-efficient and most reliable, we turned to sources such as ConsumerReports.org, FuelEconomy.gov, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We found it easiest to unearth nuts-and-bolts information (prices, features, specs, etc.) at Edmunds.com. Other publications weigh in on economy, toughness and value, and the major publications and websites such as Motor Trend, Inside Line, Car and Driver, and Cars.com all provide excellent minivan solo and comparison tests. 

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