6 Best Minivans for Buyers Who Actually Appreciate Minivans

It's about buying a family vehicle that works - not being 'cool'

The minivan vs SUV debate rages on. But for families seeking an 8-seat hauler with comfort and cargo, buying a new minivan might be the ticket. Fortunately, there are some worthy choices today, from a hybrid minivan to save on fuel costs to an AWD version to tackle the elements. Here are 6 of the top minivan on the market now. In this list, you can expect to see:

Best Overall MinivanChrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Best All-Weather MinivanToyota Sienna
Best Upscale MinivanKia Sedona Kia Carnival
Best Canadian-Built MinivanChrysler Grand Caravan
Best Minivan for Driving EnthusiastsHonda Odyssey
Best Looking MinivanChrysler Pacifica

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Photo: Chrysler

Best Overall Minivan: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Why you should buy this:It’s the only minivan with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Who it’s for:Families keen on reducing their reliance on fossil fuels
How much will it cost:US$39,995 | C$50,695+

Why we picked the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: While most car manufacturers are putting electric car technology into compact and mid-size cars and crossovers, Chrysler chose to do something different, putting a plug-in drivetrain into its minivan model.

A battery pack that lives under the floor (where it takes up the space otherwise used for the second-row stow-and-go seats) stores enough juice for about 50 km of driving. A 3.6L V6 engine is there for longer drives and occasions when you need maximum acceleration, which the electric motor can’t manage on its own.

Chrysler uses a continuously variable transmission here instead of the nine-speed automatic in other Pacifica models. While the Pacifica Hybrid will obviously use no gasoline in electric mode, its fuel consumption returns an EPA-estimated 82 MPG equivalent and 30 mpg combined city/highway, and in Canada, estimates of 7.3/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway) when running in hybrid mode still make this the most efficient minivan on the market.

If you have children, Chrysler’s “Are We There Yet?” app, accessible through the rear seat entertainment system, is a good tool for keeping them occupied on road trips. In some cities, the Pacifica Hybrid’s PHEV status earns it the right to occupy HOV lanes so that you can travel a little more freely even when you’re alone in the vehicle.

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Check out our Pacifica Hybrid reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

2021 Toyota Sienna. Photo: Toyota

Best All-Weather Minivan: Toyota Sienna

Why you should buy this:Traction to challenge that of SUVs and crossovers
Who it’s for:Drivers in colder climates looking for dependable family transportation
How much will it cost:US$31,115 | C$35,145+ ($41,350+ with AWD)

Why we picked the Toyota Sienna: For decades, Toyota has been building some of the most reliable cars on the road, and the Sienna is no exception. Consumer Reports recommends the Sienna for many reasons, its robust construction being a key one, but we also like it for being the only minivan available today with all-wheel drive.

Since 2019, Toyota expanded the Sienna’s AWD offerings, too: now, all but the base model can be optioned with AWD. The latest version also adds the Apple CarPlay smartphone integration platform, though Android Auto is still off the table at time of this writing.

But keep in mind, the 2021 Pacifica is also now available with AWD, though we haven’t test it just yet.

Toyota offers the Sienna with either seven or eight seats with a choice of two middle-row bucket seats or a three-place bench. All trims come with three-zone automatic climate control and an eight-way power driver’s seat is standard starting in the LE trim, at less than $39,000.

We like the Sienna’s engine, a 3.5L V6 with Toyota’s dual fuel injection system, which uses both port and direct injection to better tailor engine performance to different driving situations and save fuel. Also standard is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2019 Kia Sedona best minivans
2020 Kia Sedona. Photo: Kia

Best Upscale Minivan: Kia Sedona

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Editor’s Note: Sedona is replaced by the 2022 Kia Carnival (see here)

Why you should buy this:Big-time luxury kit in SXL+ trim
Who it’s for:Family drivers not willing to give up on upscale features so they can have a practical vehicle
How much will it cost:US$27,000 | C$28,495+ (C$39,065+ if you’re feeling fancy)

Why we picked the Kia Sedona: One of our favourite available features in the Sedona is the option of second-row bucket seats with kick-out leg rests, which arguably make these the most comfortable positions in the van. They’re standard in SXL and SXL+ trims, but sadly can’t be combined with heated cushions; those are only included in the SX+ variant.

However, the less expensive LX comes standard with a heated steering wheel and the SXL+ gets ventilated front seats. Among the Sedona’s more notable features is a chauffeur switch on the front passenger seat that lets someone riding behind it to adjust the front seat for more legroom.

If you’re shopping for a used Sedona, here’s our 2015 review.

Kia puts its powerful 3.3L V6 in the Sedona, which routes 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed transmission to the front front wheels. Despite the Sedona’s luxury leader status among minivans, Kia also boasts one of the lowest starting MSRPs under $30,000 for the entry-level L trim.

Best Minivan for Driving Enthusiasts: Honda Odyssey

Why you should buy this:Interesting styling and strong performance
Who it’s for:Drivers not willing to give up on having a bit of fun
How much will it cost:US$30,090 | C$34,890

Why we picked the Honda Odyssey: For many years, the Odyssey has offered more driver engagement than any other minivan. What started out as a glorified Accord station wagon has grown into a not-so-minivan whose dimensions are pretty average for the class.

We like the Odyssey for its direct steering and sharp handling, which are a breath of fresh air for any driver who feels forced into the minivan segment but would prefer something smaller.

Admittedly, the Odyssey’s appearance is polarizing, but at least Honda has tried to do something a bit different than its competition. However, the 2021 Odyssey gets big styling changes including a restyled grille and front bumper fascia, revised front lighting and new black trim under the rear window.

Power comes from a 3.5L V6 i-VTEC under the hood, good for 280-hp at 6,000 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm, all matted to Honda’s 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine is build exclusively out of Honda’s Alabama plant, while the transmission at the automaker’s Georgia facility. 

Among the Odyssey’s neater features are the CabinWatch and CabinTalk functions. The former uses a camera in the headliner to show the driver what’s happening in the second- and third-row seats, while the latter lets the driver address the van’s occupants from their position behind the wheel.

For a used Odyssey, read our feature: 2018 Honda Odyssey Review: Family Dad Vs. Dude Without Kids

2021 Chrysler Grand Caravan. Photo: Chrysler

Best Canadian-Built Minivan: Chrysler Grand Caravan

Why you should buy this:Finally, a Grand Caravan with a modern design and powertrain
Who it’s for:Well, it’s a Canada-only minivan – so, Canadians
How much will it cost:C$37,995 (base) and $39,995 (SXT)

Why we picked the Grand Caravan: For the 2021 model year, the Dodge Grand Caravan becomes a Chrysler model in Canada as it adopts styling borrowed from the upscale Chrysler Pacifica. In the U.S., Chrysler calls this van the Voyager, but it opted to stick with the Grand Caravan badge in Canada to acknowledge the outgoing version’s popularity with buyers north of the border.

It’s an elegant solution for replacing a Dodge van that was last redesigned in 2008(!): not only does the Grand Caravan finally get modern styling, but it also gains the Pacifica’s 9-speed transmission to go with its 3.6L V6 engine and split the difference between the 8- and 10-speed gearboxes in competitors’ vans.

The base Chrysler Grand Caravan comes with passive keyless entry, push-button start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric parking brake, heated side mirrors, cruise control and dual-zone climate control.

SXT trim adds a power driver’s seat with lumbar, aluminum wheels, tri-zone climate control, automatic headlights, LED interior lighting, and an interior observation mirror. 

2021 chrysler pacifica awd
2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD. Photo: Chrysler

Best Looking Minivan: Chrysler Pacifica

Why you should buy this:Good looks, powerful engine, and available AWD
Who it’s for:Minivan buyers who appreciate some sleeker design cues
How much will it cost:US$26,995 | C$31,195+

Why we picked the Chrysler Pacifica: The Pacifica is a stylish vehicle that packs a lot of options into its spacious interior. It’s available in seven distinct trim levels that include the luxurious Limited variant with its Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, three-pane panoramic sunroof and a built-in vacuum for cleaning up after messy passengers.

The Pacifica’s S Appearance Package adds even more style with a darker, glossy look.

Chrysler powers the Pacifica with its excellent 3.6L Pentastar V6, which makes 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, which goes to the front wheels through a nine-speed transmission. The Pentastar is a strong, smooth engine when it needs to be, but also returns pretty good fuel economy at cruising speeds. It’s also available with AWD for 2021.

The 2021 Pacifica also gets 14 more standard features to the new model update, including new LED lights and new Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB). Along with some styling updates like freshening of the front grille, headlamps, fog lamps and taillamp for a more utility-focused look.

Trims will include Touring, Touring L, Limited and, new for 2021, Pinnacle when orders open in the third quarter of 2020, with the vehicle available in dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Here’s our review of the first Pacifica model from 2017.

There you have it, all the current minivans rated. The best model will really depend on family needs as each 8-passenger vehicle does offer a long list of features. Budget is also a concern for most buyers, and some of these minivans will price out quite high, while others are more affordable.

If you’re in the market for a new minivan, check out all our van reviews here.

Chris Chasehttps://chrischasescars.com/
Chris has been writing professionally about cars since 2004, in print and online. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two feline tyrants. In rare quiet moments, he can be found travelling or playing one of his way-too-many guitars. Chris is also a journalist member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).