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. And there are some good choices, from a hybrid minivan to save on fuel costs to an AWD version to tackle the elements for 2018 and beyond. Here, we pick 6 top family vans to look at.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Hybrid Minivan with Best Gas Mileage
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 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.
Pacifica Reviews and News
Minivan 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. For 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. 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 C$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.
Luxury Minivan Priced Right
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. 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 of C$28,495 for the entry-level L trim.
Chrysler's New Minivan with Modern Features
Why we picked the Chrysler Pacifica: Diplomatic relations between Canada and the U.S. are a bit fraught right now, to say the least, so we completely understand that some Canadians are keen to keep their hard-earned dollars in the Great White North. Family drivers need not worry, because while the Chrysler Pacifica is designed in the United States, every example rolls off the assembly line in Canada, at Chrysler Windsor factory. 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. 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.
Smaller Minivan for Better Handling
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. We admit the Odyssey's appearance is polarizing, but at least Honda has tried to do something a bit different than its competition. Honda's 3.5L V6 engine is put to work here with its 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Most versions use a nine-speed automatic transmission to power the front wheels, but the top-end Touring trim gets a 10-speed automatic and an upgraded engine with cylinder deactivation. Between that and the extra gear ratio, the Odyssey Touring is one of the most efficient minivans around with fuel consumption estimates of 12.2/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway). 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.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Why we picked the Dodge Grand Caravan: Largely unchanged since 2008, the Grand Caravan looks and feels like it has been forgotten by its maker. It's boxy where other minivans sport rounded bodies and its interior is mostly made of inexpensive-feeling plastic. Kia may have the edge in terms of lowest MSRP with its Sedona, but Dodge's parent company, Chrysler, always seems to have some sort of discount available to let the Grand Caravan handily undercut its more modern rivals. Dodge uses the same Pentastar V6 engine and nine-speed transmission as the Chrysler Pacifica, so the Grand Caravan can at least boast strong performance in a straight line, as well as good fuel economy. A soft suspension makes for a comfortable ride, but don't expect much in the way of handling prowess. The Grand Caravan also offers little in the way of advanced safety features. Blind spot monitoring and rear park assist are available in an option package, but if you want items like collision warning with automatic braking and lane keep assist, you have to move up to the more expensive Pacifica. On the plus side, the Grand Caravan is one of two minivans (the other being the Pacifica) available with second-row seats that stow in the floor so that you don't have to remove them for maximum cargo capacity.