By on December 14, 2009

Get on the bus!

If human beings were truly rational animals, trends would be easy to predict. Given that we’re fickle, self-aware and subject to the influence of less predictable forces than pure reason, figuring out what is going to appeal to people is never easy. And few automotive examples prove the inconstancy of market trends like the minivan. On paper they just plain make sense, creating a huge amount of flexible interior room out of high-volume sedan platforms, making them relatively cheap, capable and efficient. But if consumer decisions were made based on such rational considerations, turtlenecks would be long overdue for a huge comeback. In short, the “image thing” killed minivans, with more than a little help from the marketing efforts of the very companies that profited off their (relatively) brief time in the sun. And really, the future of the minivan will be determined by the staying power of its modern replacement, the Crossover. Are CUVs an evolutionary step from the SUV dead-end of the 90s back towards minivans and station wagons, or will the needs of multiple-passenger consumers forever be doomed to be served by the in-between-mobiles? My totally unjustified belief in the basic sanity of consumers makes me believe that minivans make too much sense to not make a comeback, and concepts like VW’s Microbus show the way. What say you?

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117 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Can Minivans Make A Comeback?...”


  • avatar
    paul_y

    Frankly, I think if every minivan and wagon gets rebranded as a “crossover,’ (whatever that means) they’ll make a comeback.
     
    As I pointed out on Jalopnik earlier, there’s a radio ad for the Dodge Journey that boasts that it “…has the ride and handling of a sedan, with the roominess of an SUV.” Sane people call those wagons. I think that over time, if manufacturers keep trotting out the “crossover” label for each successive new model that is either more van- or wagonlike, people in general will get back into driving minivans and wagons, and be way too stupid to notice.

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      …and I wish VW would have had the nerve to build that Transporter concept.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      Here in Germany, the radio ads end with “Journey: The new family van from Dodge!”
      We may not have a sense of humor, but at least we are able to call a van a van.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Paul_y +1: Ever since most suburbanites have figured out that a body on frame SUV didn’t drive as good as it looked, manufacturers have slowly been morphing the SUV back into a minivan. Sure they call then cross overs to avoid the stigma of “minivan” or “wagon” or “hatchback” but minivans is what they are becoming.
       
      I noticed that in the recently published sales numbers of minivans on TTAC that Mazda was even kind enough to classify the CX series are minivans.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I’m holding out for a GM Greenbrier retro-inspired minivan:
    http://tinyurl.com/yb2ecjn

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      Don’t hold your breath. As long as people aren’t willing to stop worrying about such ludicrous notions as having their legs scissored off in a fender-bender, the US is going to be denied Forward Control vehicles.
       
      I honestly want a current-gen Toyota HiAce, particularly because Dream Factory Blow sells a body kit to make it look like a Dodge A100. http://jalopnik.com/386142/dream-factory-blow-papa-rider

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I saw those, they’re awesome. BTW, I just shot a newish JDM Hi-Ace 4WD van in Eugene, with Canadian plates.
      Regarding the Greenbrier: I meant “inspired”, like the FWD VW van in the photo. On the other hand, its not that hard to engineer rear-engined cars for crash-worthiness anymore, like the Smart, and some others.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      I don’t want them to make a comeback. My dad had a ’69 (?) GMC that always felt like it was going to dive headfirst into the pavement. It’s not a safe feeling.

    • 0 avatar
      dmrdano

      James 2,

      I recently sold my (mostly) restored ’67 Chevy van because I was afraid my son would kill himself as a newby driver.  Sad, but true, in hard braking it wanted to cartwheel.  Cornering under acceleration was exciting.  I loved my van, but I love my son more.  I mostly have driven Caravans since the mid-80′s and am satisfied.  But I am also a boring person.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Yes, they’ll make a comeback, because of the utility and economy of this form of vehicle.  Many find the ownership of a mini van as the first sign of death to your personality and individuality.  Yet most people like their vans despite the cultural stigma attached to them. 

    • 0 avatar
      FloorIt

      Yeah, the associated image of what a minivan represents “being uncool” hinders them in sales more than functionality. That image isn’t upscale either, no matter how fully loaded they are. The Acura MDX’s and Lexus RX and LX’s have the upscale image advantage, hence sales, even though less functional or practical than a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      People who buy minivans, if nothing else, are honest about their lives and their needs. They say, “I have kids and crap to haul, and I don’t care what I look like as long as I get the job done.” That, and they aren’t bad vehicles, given that they are generally used for their intended purpose (unlike, say 90% of body-on-frame SUVs, that never have 4WD engaged, never tow, and are used by a tiny single woman to commute solo).

    • 0 avatar
      psmisc

      The irony is that being cool means not caring about what other people think, a mentality you possess when you own a minivan.

  • avatar
    BDB

    The problem is most mini-vans aren’t very “mini” anymore, Mazda 5 excepted. The “minivans” we have now, especially the top trim levels with long wheelbases, fridges, lazy-boy seats, entertainment systems, and so on, are essentially morphing into the conversion vans of old.
    IIRC the Mazda 5 is the same size as the original Caravan/Voyager!

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      I believe you’re correct about the Mazda5.

      FWIW, I think they’re really cool, even though I’m single and childless. On the other hand, I like wagony vehicles, and the 5 is hypothetically available with a manual transmission, so everyone wins.
       
      On the other hand, at least the modern bloated minivans are a good bit more efficient than the old timey conversion vans. If you’re going to have a living room with a wallowy ride, there’s no disadvantage to a minivan over a body-on-frame van, really.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      That’s true, paul_y.
      I don’t know, maybe I’m jealous of the kids growing up in them. When I was six years old on a long trip in the back of the Chevy Celebrity wagon all I got was bench seat and the power window buttons for entertainment. Well if I got stuck in the rear-facing third seat penalty box there was also making faces at the drivers behind us, but no DVD flat screen with satellite television or whatever.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      The market spoke years ago, small minivans are now but a tiny niche.  They’re less useful if you want to carry people and their stuff. We own both the Mazda5 and Sienna, and our family of 5 rarely all ride together in the former.
      The Mazda5 is a couple inches narrower than the original Caravan/Voyager, with room for two in the back instead of 3. It also weighs about 500lbs more in US trim.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      Vehicles roughly the size of the Mazda5:
      -Ford C-Max
      -Kia Carens (Rondo in the US)
      -Volkswagen Touran
      -Opel Zafira
      -Dodge Journey
      -Peugeot 3008
      -Citroen C4 Grand Picasso
      -Renault Scenic
      -Honda StepWGN
      Not a small market in most of the world.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      The Mazda 5 is NOT the same size of the original 1984 Caravan.  Something I’ve had to continually argue here on TTAC.  The 5 is narrower and shorter than the Caravan…and yes, I’ve seen the two parked side by side. 

      One of the main marketing points of the original Caravan is that you could fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood in the back with the seats removed.  Try that with a 5.  It doesn’t matter if you need to haul around sheet goods from Home Depot, it was their marketing for the utility of the vehicle.  The 5 can hold more crap than your average sedan, but for back seat comfort most would take a Camry over the 5.  Plain and simple the 5 is a niche market sporty people hauler and will never acheive mass marketing appeal the Caravan did back in the mid-80′s.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I’d buy me one of those in a heartbeat.  Make mine with the Westphalia option.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Minivans will make a comeback when a few things happen.
    Gas prices go up significantly.
    They become mini again (saw an old Odyssey on the road the other day.  It was the size of a Mazda 5).
    I am guessing that it will have to happen in that order.  Ideas like the Orlando concept, might actually be what takes over.  It isn’t a minivan, but I wouldn’t call it a crossover either.  I would actually want to see one in person, but that type of vehicle might be the new passenger mover going forward when efficiency is king.
     

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    If ‘minivans’ came looking as good as the MicroBus Redux, they would have a much easier time overcoming the image problem.

    The GM ‘dustbusters’ were at least an effort in that direction. Admittedly lousy execution, but they did try.  Same with the Asstek.  Beyond horrid in the flesh, but damn, it was something different than the ubiquitous Chrysler product.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “…turtlenecks would be long overdue for a huge comeback.”

    Turtlenecks never went out of style. Turtlenecks will always look cool…

    The problem isn’t that the minivan is bad in concept, or that it had an image problem. The problem is that the American car buyers are more attatched to the image of the right kind of car ownerhsip = cojones, that they would rather be caught dead than seen in something that’s even remotely uncool. Wagons and minivans aren’t uncool, it’s the Americans perception of wagons and minivans as uncool that is the problem. And it all roots down to childhood traumas.

    The children of the fifties, sixties, seventies, early eighies, was brought up in the backseat of a wagon. Ultimate poster child, eunuck Griswold in his Family Truckster hauling kids and stuff and even dead grand mother on vacation. For the children of the eighties and nineties, said vehicle was a minivan. When these people grew up and got a driving license, no way in hell they were going to roam around the countryside in the same car mommy bought groceries in…

    The kids of today will probably buy anything than a Ford Expedition the day they earn their license. Being rebellious, how about a Prius? Or even a minivan? Mini-minivan? Scion XB? The point is, SUV:s aren’t bad cars, they will probably continue to be made for the people who actually have the use for them. And probably, there will be a demand for cars that look rugged and trail-ready without being so. But CUV:s as people haulers, in the long run? No, I think the minivan will catch up that slack, it’s better in concept and execution, thus it will do its job better than a CUV hauling kids and stuff.

    This qustions has bogged my mind for some time. What is it in the American mind-set that looks at wagons and minivans as uncool? Everywhere else in the world, they are as cool as can be.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Thing is, though, I can understand the migration from wagon to minivan. Minivans are better packaged and more practical than a station wagon equivalent. There’s plenty of space with a similar (or shorter!) car length, you can walk back to unbuckle the kids and clean up after them, there’s a flat load floor, the sliding door is great for car seats. I could go on, they have a lot of advantages over a full or mid-size wagon.
      But CUVs and especially SUVs are not *nearly* as well-packaged as a minivan, and arguably not even a station wagon, and they drive like garbage.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      “…turtlenecks would be long overdue for a huge comeback.”

      Turtlenecks never went out of style. Turtlenecks will always look cool…
      I think Ed’s comment on turtlenecks was aimed squarely at me.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      That may be so. However, I wear turtlenecks because of their evergreen coolness. In fact, turtlenecked Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” is my male ideal, the King of Cool. A Man will always look good in turtlenecks or smoking, it’s one of those thing that is never wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      BDB, I share your bafflement.  As the previous owner of sedans, wagons, suvs,minivans and pickups, I have to say, I’ve come to appreciate nothing more than the van for a family hauler.  It’s the Swiss Army knife of transport.  And our Odyssey, while it could shed a few inches and pounds, is better for us than the suvs and crossovers we cross-shopped.  Every other vehicle meant compromises we weren’t willing to make.  And this thing is loaded better than the last Caddy I owned (and far more compitent on road).

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Well, they haven’t stopped selling here. Maybe we’re not as image obssessed as Americans. Or, with the high cost of vehicles, practicality wins out over image. We also like hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      In Europe, the Chrysler minivans is by far the best selling American vehicles. I’d say there are at least twenty Chrysler Minivans on any American SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      Some data for November in Germany:
      Best selling American branded vehicle: Ford Fiesta, 6495 units/month
      There is not a single Chrysler or Dodge vehicle in the list of top 100 best selling cars, so I can’t say whether they sell better than American SUVs (of which are zero in the Top 100 as well, unless you count the Ford Kuga at 1124 units/month)
      The only Chevrolet in the Top 100 is the Matiz, at 1057 units/month.
      Don’t know whether the Chrysler minivans still sell OK in the rest of Europe, here in Germany i have NEVER seen one of the current generation.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      I’m talking about American imports, I’m not counting Opel/Vauxhall or Ford Europe, as in Europe those are not imports but domestics. On the imported cars, i.e. SUVs, trucks, Camaros , Jeeps, etc, the Chrysler minivans are the best selling to date. I have no figures, but the last figures I saw was something like 15-20000 units sold in Europe. But that was the last gen minivan. Also, I’d say that the Chevrolet Europe line-up isn’t American either, but Korean, as they consist solely of Daewoo cars.

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    They haven’t gone away, just been on the back burner since suv’s reigned supreme. Also the quality problems 1990′s ChryCo minivans had didn’t help.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Its not wholy based upon image.  It has to be more.

    I was not really an SUV guy, but many years ago when I first saw the Jeek Cherokee, it blew my mind.
    I loved that straight 6.  The power to go anywhere, do anything.
    I had to have one, one day.
    But then again , I guess I always liked the Jeep thing, which might have been image all along.
    Even the long ago Jeep Wagoneer.  That was something.  I wish I could have one today.
    And the old Woody truck thing.
    Come on, you have to think these started the whole thing…

    http://www.oldwoodies.com/gallery-truckwoodies5.htm

    The problem I had with all my Minivans was the drive.  I got tired of the wind pushing me around and the lack of power at green lights.
    Its not that they were image killers, they were not fun.
    They still aren’t.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I still see an awful lot of Sienas and Odysseys around, so some people aren’t ashamed to be seen driving a mini van.  Ditto the Mopars. My only reservation concerns the “mini” moniker. They’re pretty big cars.
    There is an entire generation for whom SUV=car. It’s all they know. I see no indication that SUVers can ever be nudged into smaller, and especially, LOWER, vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      musicalmcs8706

      They’re pretty big cars.
      I saw a fairly new Honda Odyssey parked next to a late 90s Toyota 4Runner a few weeks ago.  The Odyssey was much larger in every way except height than the Toyota.  If the Odyssey would have had the same amount of ground clearance it might have been taller.  That’s no longer mini to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Libertyman03

      Car and Driver had  a test a while ago of “full-size minivans.” What the hell?? Leave it to Americans to want huge minivans. That being said, I love it when the magazines test utilitarian vehicles, as opposed to supercars. It makes me that much more knowledgeable when I see a car on the road…I definitely see more minivans that I do supercars.
      I would buy a minivan. They are comfortable, hold lots, and get decent mileage. If i had a family, an Odyssey would be first on my list.

  • avatar
    findude

    I’d much rather see a comeback of the mid-size wagon. I’ve always liked wagons, but there have been so few decent ones since the 1970s. I have a lot of respect for the better minivans (we have a 2002 Odyssey that does a whole lot of things very well). I’ve never liked SUVs.
    Our teenager doesn’t like to be seen driving the minivan, he prefers our non-descript sedan (but then, it has a manual transmission and a suspension package).
     
    Solving the bloat problem might do a lot to bring minivans back. Consider the first generation Odyssey versus the current generation. Huge size difference in every dimension. It’s not just minivans, even the current Honda Civic is much bigger than the Accord of only 10-15 years ago. Old Civics are tiny.
     
    But, yeah, people will buy lots of minivans/crossovers/whatevers when it makes economical sense as a solution for hauling kids and stuff in reasonable comfort. Of course, those people aren’t really the same demographic that posts on blogs/forums like this one.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I had a base-model Plymouth Voyager for a while. Inline-4, 5-speed stick. I think that iteration died in ’93 or so; mine was a ’92.
    It was what a van should be: a box with a drivetrain. Long after all similar automatic trans Caravan/Voyagers ate their transmissions, mine kept going – out to 200k. It also got 25-28mpg.
    I wanted something similarly useful, but with better mpg. These days, I drive a 1st gen Scion xB. It’s faster, better built, and gets 10 more miles per gallon.

  • avatar
    nudave

    Just start referring to crossovers as transvestites.
    Then see how long they’re “cool”.

  • avatar
    AndrewDederer

    They are hardly dead.  The market’s fragmented (which is true of ALL vehicles, very little sells more than 1 factory –ca 200,000– worth nowadays.  With a fragmented market, only the big boys survive.  Which means Toyota and Honda are fighting for the “high” end while Kia/Hyundai and Dodge/Chrysler are fighting it out in “economy”.  Unless you have flexible manufacturing (which GM and still really don’t), you have to get 150K sales to even make it worth your while .

    The “mini” mini-vans (Mazda) are never going to get out of the niche in the states,  unless a whole series of taxes of footprint and engine displacement get passed here (good luck with that).  The fuel efficiency advantage is marginal, the price break is minimal, and if you have the guts to drive a box, you generally want a BIG box.  

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    In the snowbelt, SUV’s will always trump minivans due to the ‘perception’ of superior ability to deal with the elements…..an SUV has ALMOST all the space and convenience attributes of a minvan for a similar price point.  The SUV’s high ground clearance and rugged stance inspires confidence that the owner will be able to “get through” the winter storms, where a minivan (even the bucks-up AWD versions) is perceived to be the winter equivalent of  driving a UPS truck.  That said, approx. 90% of the vehicles I pass which have slid off I-94 in Michigan are Grand Cherokees, Trailblazers and Explorers….so the myth of weather capability is just that….a myth (without proper training and the common sense that comes with it….)

    • 0 avatar
      musicalmcs8706

      Exactly.  Last winter right after New Years when we had some terrible weather as I was driving back to Minnesota in my Impala I went by a lot of SUVs and trucks that had gone in the ditch, while I, with having received some training on how to drive in the crap kept going without a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      My experience in upstate NY, too.  I’ve seen more 4×4′s driven by people with more confidence than sense and fewer skills than eyeballs spinning out on icy roads while I made way around them in my minivan.  I’ve got an suv, too.  Believe it or not, I usually prefer the van in winter driving.  More stable and the fwd has never been a traction deficit.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      And the SUV advertising also preys on the simpletons’ fears of the gathering storm, the falling snow, and the flooded roads and mommy getting the whole clan safely home. Plus there’s that one chance you might go skiing some time next year, so better ‘be prepared’ and get that SUV just in case. If one is going to generalize about Merkins buying SUVs, it’s them believing they can have it all in a SUV.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I’m still driving one.  So, maybe somebody else thinks it’s uncool.  What the hell do I care about what they think?

    My minivan has a reasonable footprint, gets reasonable fuel economy, holds a ton of stuff or passengers (in comfort), tows enough to be useful.  I can’t imagine why people would prefer something else for this kind of mission.  But that’s their problem.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Don’t call it a comeback
    I been here for years
    Rockin my peers and puttin suckas in fear
    Makin the tears rain down like a MON-soon
    Listen to the bass go BOOM
    Explosion, overpowerin
    Over the competition, I’m towerin
     
    Ahem.  On a more serious note, I don’t think they’ll so much make a comeback as come full-circle as soon as one of the big boys puts a sliding door on their three-row crossover (eg, like Ford very nearly did with the Flex).  Once that happens, and once the competition starts getting creamed in the sales charts by the “Extended Door Crossover” we’ll be back in magic wagon land.
     
    I should point out that saying they’ll catch on once they shrink is dead wrong.  The reason they took off in the first place (and destroyed both the low-roof fullsize wagon and the three-row Econoline/Vandura) was the growth in size.   What the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo will do (and what the Chrysler Magic Wagons and first-gen Oddy and MPV did) was knife the midsize hatch/wagon market.  If it’s utility you want, raising the roof and “kitchen-chairing” the seats is where it’s at, whereas wagons are very much low-rider SUVs in their appeal: for people to hung up on dynamics and image to embrace utility, despite evidence that a well-sorted high-roofer like the Mazda5 can challenge most low-roofers’ dynamics.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Minivans will come back, but not until we get what I call the “30-30″ minivan.  That is, a minivan that gets 30 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.  It’ll take a hybrid or diesel to do it with current technology.  Consider that the 3800 lb. Chevrolet Equinox yields 32 highway mpg.  A 4300 lb. hybrid Toyota Sienna with an aerodynamic body, high mpg tires and a direct-injected engine could hit these magic numbers.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Much like the McMansion and Big Box suburbs, SUVs were sold to the public by playing to the “Freedom” image that’s so very dear to the North American psyche.  Also, like McMansions and Big Boxes, the reason for the pitch was that they’re cheaper to make and more profitable for their makers.
     
    Marketers will work very hard and very long to make you think you want something if it’s something they want you to have. If they’re really good, they’ll make you think it was your idea in the first place.
     
    Minivans are expensive vehicles to design: you start with a relatively costly unibody car platform, with it’s complex suspension and body engineering, and add in drastic floorplan changes, suspension differences, steering, seating, etc.  Then you need to beef everything up to handle the increased mass.  Then you need to tune the ride and handling.  Then you need to develop a killer feature that differentiates you from the rest.  Then you need to realize that everyone else who makes minivans is doing the same thing, all for a market that’s hard-nosed and practical and doesn’t particularly go in for discretionary, margin-bloating features.
     
    Wouldn’t you, if you were a carmaker, want slap a third row into one of your cheap-as-hell BoF truck platforms and just call it a day?

    • 0 avatar
      Garrick Jannene

      I think Honda and Toyota still modify Accord and Camry (respectively) platforms for their minivans, but Chrysler has used a separate platform for their vans since the 1996 redesign.
      Just for giggles, the platform code for the current Caravan?  It’s RT.  Of all mopars to use that on… The minivans?!

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      At least the platform code is not SRT!

  • avatar
    zznalg

    I’m a big fan of wagons and would celebrate their return to prominence. Mini-vans, body on-frame SUVs and CUV’s have their place in my mind. In fact, as a sports car/sports sedan fan and a Jeep Wrangler fan, I have long dreamed of a vehicle that merges the best of both. Of course, that’s not possible. But I haven’t given up the hope. So, today, I own a 2006 BMW X5 with a manual and the sports package (In addition to an E46 M3 and an old Jeep Wrangler…) and I really like the X5 (in addition to the M3 and the Wrangler). So, why do I mention this? My X5, a pretty good “cuv”, does have the ground clearance to make it up our local 10,000 foot ski mountain after a snow fall. When I get up there, I have a tailgate on which to sit and put on my ski boots and other gear. It is comfortable, drivable, somewhat responsive as a driver-centric vehicle and highly practical. My old Audi A4 Avant would get stuck in deep snow (as would a mini van for lack of ground clearance). My Wrangler is a bastard on the road (part of its charm). There is a place for a well sorted out “cuv”. That’s really my main point. I do think there is an even larger place for well sorted out wagons and mini vans. People should simply drive what meets their needs best. And they should be rational. Oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’d like to point out the Sienna has 7″ of ground clearance, or about as much as most crossovers.   A few, like your X5, have 8.5″, as do more than a few BoF SUVs.
       
      That’s not a huge difference.
       
      A Sienna with decent tires and especially with AWD will be about as snow-capable as most trucks and trucklets. You have to get into serious rock-crawler territory (e.g., Wrangler & 4Runner: 10+ inches) before the differences are really apparent

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    My fav: the Mitsubishi Delica D:5

    A tough box with 4WD.

  • avatar
    Frampton

    I’ve been waiting for this VW to come out since it was first introduced, and there has never been anything as disappointing as the Routan.  It’s a Dodge.  A Dodge!  Really?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The minivan conundrum is interesting. They were so successful, suddenly they were everywhere. When that saturation point is reached, well, consumers just want something different, no matter how good the original might have been.

    Which leads to the second point – it’s rather tough to be different when what you’re selling in its most efficient form is a basic two-box design. Until the last version, Chrysler did an admirable job of keeping their minivans fresh-looking with every new model without sacrificing too much practicality. Chrysler was also smart enough to stick with the basic dimensions of the original (again, until the most recent square LWB-only Daimler box).

    Besides the SWB Caravan, the last, best version of the true minivan was the Mazda MPV. Perfectly-sized with its only downfall being underpowered (which was quickly cured), it unfortunately just didn’t sell well enough and was ultimately replaced by the smaller, less versatile Mazda5 and larger ‘crossover’ CX-7.

    As to the Microbus, well, VW decided to forego that concept in favor of the ill-fated Phaeton. It was a poor, short-sighted decision which ultimately resulted in the lackluster me-too Routan-version of the Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      Libertyman03

      I agree with you 100%. Chrysler vans were always nice, until the latest. It just looks like a box, which, I guess, is what they all were (are). I actually considered buying a Mazda 5, based on looks alone…I LOVE two-box designs. Instead I chose a Liberty, which is still two box, obviously, but not nearly as versatile as a mini-minivan. Why did I not buy a Mazda 5? Sliding doors, my friend.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      I agree, the latest Chrysler minivans were a huge styling step backwards. What were they thinking? Personally I think the third generation of those where the best looking (1996-2000).
       

    • 0 avatar
      MrDot

      I guess I disagree.  After 10 years of ovoid designs, I find new boxy Caravan a refreshing change.

  • avatar
    Libertyman03

    Lots of crossovers have three rows of seats anyway, although those rear-most seats aren’t exactly the most comfortable. In any case, my parents have a Kia Rondo, which is most definitely a minivan in the same vein as the Mazda 5, but it has four conventional doors. There’s the rub. DON’T GIVE A MINIVAN SLIDING DOORS, and people won’t call it a minivan. Sure, the Rondo is a minivan, but when people see it, they think that magical word, “crossover” and say, “Oh, it’s cute.” My point, get rid of the sliding doors, and you have a money maker.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      True, but indicative of the foolishness of many buyers. One of the very best things about a minivan are the sliding doors! No better way of getting people and stuff in and out of a big box has been invented.
       

  • avatar
    kol

    I don’t see mini-vans coming back in America for a very long time. Like the wagon before it, the mini-van has succumbed to a cultural memory of bad family road trips, screaming children, and thinning hairlines. For Americans, cars are as much fashion as function, and that has not changed despite the recession.
    The spirit of the mini-van will simply carry on in crossovers similar to mini-vans except for the lack of a sliding door and addition of slightly truck-like looks.

  • avatar

    If that VW Microbus came out with a stick, a decent fun-to-drive quotient, and decent reliability, I don’t thikn I’d be able to hold onto my wallet, even without a wife and kids. I like the minivan concept. I like the image it projccts, and I can’t understand why someone is embarrassed at the notion that their car would project dedication to family. But then, I wanted to draft Gore for ’08; I don’t watch football ever, I don’t drink beer, I do go way out of my way to get really good espresso, I’m a liberal with a flag pin on my lapel, and I like old Peugeots. Not exactly your typical American.
    And I LOVE that microbus concept.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    If US buyers were rational, then we would see a lot of hatchback and wagon versions of common cars being sold. Rational hasn’t been the winning formula in the US market for a very, very long time. I don’t know if that is because of our education or some other defect in the national psyche, but doing what makes sense is rarely what the majority seem to do.
    So no, the minivan isn’t coming back anytime soon.
     

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Interestingly, when Toyota did the SuperSize thing they changed the name to Sienna
     
    The Previa had very little to do with the Sienna other than the badge on the hood.  It was a rear-drive, mid-engine microbus, an evolution of the Toyota Van, rounded off at the corners and with a less deadly wheelbase.  Both were weird vehicles (the engine was accessed by flipping up the driver’s seat!) but the Previa at least looked normal.
     
    They were pretty spacious, at least compared to the Chryslers and the first-gen Oddy; space wasn’t really the issue. The problem they did have were threefold:
    * The handling was spooky as hell.  The Van was outright terrifying to drive; the Previa had a longer wheelbase, but it was still a narrow, tall, mid-engined, short-wheelbase car.   Rotating them was stupid-easy on slick pavement and/or in windy conditions.
    * The engine was really space-constrained.  Toyota couldn’t cram anything more than a four into them, and it really wasn’t enough once the Chryslers got sixes.  You could, memorably, get a supercharged Previa.
    * They were expensive.  Even the base Previa was big dollars for the day, and the upper-trim models were crushing.  They probably cost Toyota a bundle to make as they didn’t share parts with anything else.
     
    They were just so very cool, though.  I know a guy who still drives a black, stick-shift Previa that he’d shoehorned a blown engine into.  It’s not actually that fast (my Sienna will completely dust it) but it’s interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      I hated the driving position in the Previa. The engine location really got in the way. I put a few thousand kilometers on one during a UK vacation trip back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      I would add a fourth problem with the Previa, which is that they have lousy crash protection for front seat passengers.  Sure the kids are fine, but if Mom and Dad are dead, then it wasn’t such a great design for a minivan after all.
      You still see Previas arround, primarily used as work trucks.  They are routinely in terrible condition.  I imagine they receive very little in the way of maintenance, but appear to have two or three hundred thousand miles on the odometer.

  • avatar
    HarveyBirdman

    As a person who just traded in a Honda Pilot for a Toyota Sienna to haul around my 3 kids under age 7, I’d like to think that minivans will one day triumph over CUVs. However, I think the minivan’s ship has sailed. The next-gen Sienna that was previewed at the LA Auto Show has only evolutionary changes, and other than the Venza-esque styling, there’s no sign that the minivan is trying to be all things to all people (which is funny, because other than sporty driving, it does many things very well).
    I really don’t think the “image” issue is a myth; I’ve seen it in my own household and among my friends. Interestingly, the men I know (with several kids) want minivans, while the wives want the CUVs. Fortunately for me, I managed to convince my wife that a CUV is no cooler than a minivan, and at best signifies that the owner is in denial about his/her needs. I feel just as cool now in the Sienna (meaning not at all), which is just fine by me.
    To top it all off, I talked my sister (who has 2 kids) into buying a Mazda5 this past weekend. She LOVES it. It’s absolutely the sort of vehicle folks with 2 kids who want extra cargo space should be driving (that and the legendary station wagon, of course).

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    As the orignal owners of a 1984 Toyota Van (5MT) and current owners of a Matrix XRS (6MT), Mazda6 Wagon (5MT), and Supercharged Previa All-trac, you can imagine that I certainly appreciate the minivan & wagon body styles.  SO much more utility than an actual C/S Utility Vehicle!

    I appreciate Toyota’s plan to offer a 4 cylinder on the new Sienna.  Once they offer a hybrid (I can’t believe they haven’t yet given the platform sharing w/ the camry & highlander hybrid), I think that’ll be somewhat of a game changer (approaching the 30/30 mpg mentioned above).  Much like wagons, I don’t think minivans will get back to their “glory days” in terms of sales, but there will always be enough smart families to keep it a healthy market (more so than wagons).  People recognize the kid & parent- friendly features and sliding doors!

    In regard to the original honda odyssey and earlier toyota van, previa & 1st gen sienna, it would be interesting to see the model’s market share of the minivan market compared to the company’s overall market share.  Chrysler still beat them soundly, but I wonder how much traction those vehicles really had.  raw sales numbers may not tell the whole story.  Similar logic for the Mazda5.  It doesn’t sell in huge numbers, but then neither does Mazda in general.

    ***

    Last, I also think it’s time for some non-traditional minivans to spruce things up.  Honda Stream?  Any of the VW or Toyota minivans sold overseas could come here as Mazda5 competitors or somewhat niche vehicles.  They could likely sell a fair number to fleets (rental and otherwise)

  • avatar
    threeer

    I still catch myself looking for a mid 80′s Toyota Van (make mine the metallic blue, with dual sunroof and five-speed tranny, please).  Big enough to haul all of my camping gear, but not too big as to take up half of the road.  But then, I also find myself longing for a Vanagon Westy Weekender…I’m hopeless!

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Hopefully they never come back – wagons are better for most people that need a minivan type vehicle.
     
    I plan on buying a nice wagon for the wife and kids as our next vehicle.  It will be something from Audi, BMW, or Volvo – I haven’t made up my mind yet.
     
    My wife is actually looking forward to a vehicle that handles better, gets good fuel economy, and still holds all of our stuff.  The new wagon will not be as off-road capable as our current Jeep Grand Cherokee, but I’m willing to give that up to gain better performance on-road.
     
    -ted

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Minivans will not make a comeback. They have been branded as uncool and will thus remain. Instead, people will flock to a new ridiculous and impractical “cool” vehicle. I’m guessing the fad of the future will be electric 18 wheelers with on board nuclear reactors, preferred by single women with no kids and pop stars.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Hopefully they never come back – wagons are better for most people that need a minivan type vehicle.
     
    No, they’re not.  Low-roof wagons are a fashion statement resulting from the space-wasting long-and-low look that became popular in the fifties and persisted as long as fuel prices allowed it to.  Minivans of all stripes pack far more useful space into a vehicle of the same mass and footprint.
     
    It’s important to understand the difference between a minivan or European-style MPV/Verso/Space wagon and an SUV or CUV: the floor height.  The former have a floor and thusly a step-in and seat height not much higher than a car; the latter are much higher.  More simply: minivans are wagons with a tall roof; xUVs are wagons with a lift kit.
     
    Consider how much “large” modern wagons like the Magnum and, errr, oh, I don’t know, the Passat, weigh.  Now, consider the Toyota Sienna, which isn’t much heavier than either, packs much more useful space and still gets reasonable mileage.  Note that in the Sienna you have nice, big, sliding doors and high hip point, which are godsends if you’re wrangling children and stuff.   The same applies to the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo versus “midsize” wagons (have you seen the pathetic rear seat accommodations and cargo space in a small wagon?).  Even in wagon-crazed western Europe, MPVs are taking a bite out of the low-roof market.
     
    Wagons are just as much a ‘fashion statement” as SUVs, but in a different direction: enthusiasts buy them because they want sporty and sleek, and are willing to compromise the vehicle’s utility for it.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Hi John Horner, thanks.
    You too, Mirko.

    Yes, your kind of right.
    I tried to say in the response that I think the whole jeep thing was image.
    But it was more.
    It was power and the ability to go anywhere and do anything.
    These were traits the Jeeps had.
    Remember, this was back some time ago when the Cherokee was young and the minivan was not like it is today.
    The front wheel drive really didn’t get me that go anywhere feeling and the power wasn’t there.
    None.
    I just attached the link so everybody could enjoy some cool looking earlier SUVs.
    Just wanted to show how this whole SUV thing was rather old.
    After all, I had minivans for many years; 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999.
    All Dodge.
    I got one every two years.
    I leased and each year was penalized because I turned them in with over 160K miles on them.
    I was a peddler of milk in those days!
    I loved these vans.I still think they are THE perfect family car.

    As a last note.  I think the whole problem is wanting one vehicle to do all things.
    If we would just let each one do the special thing it was designed for, it would do THAT best.
    Today I let my MKS do my drives. The trips to Florida and MO and Chicago demand te personal luxury.
    I let my Mazda3 give me my fun around town.
    My wife won’t let me drive er Mazda6.
    (She’s really selfish and mean that way)
    My 02 Trailblazer still tows my crap between houses and kid colleges.

    Thanks for the comments.

  • avatar

    Wagons are just as much a ‘fashion statement” as SUVs, but in a different direction: enthusiasts buy them because they want sporty and sleek, and are willing to compromise the vehicle’s utility for it. 

    I don’t agree that wagons are a compromise or a fashion statement.  Take a sedan, add more utility and not too much weight.  How is that a compromise?   Not that we have too many to choose from…

    Consider how much “large” modern wagons like the Magnum and, errr, oh, I don’t know, the Passat, weigh.  Now, consider the Toyota Sienna, which isn’t much heavier than either, packs much more useful space and still gets reasonable mileage. 

    (I’m not going to use the Magnum, which really was more about fashion then function.)  Now compare the (functional) Passat wagon and the Sienna and tell me how 650 pounds (4177 vs 3512) is not that much heavier.   And the Odyssey is 210 pounds heavier still.  And while the Sienna fares a little better in the economy department with 19mpg combined (via epa.gov), the Odyssey gets a combined 18mpg.   For comparison, the Passat is at 22mpg  (still not great) while the Suburban is 16mpg.  Maybe if there were  true wagon versions of the Accord (24mpg  combined) or the Camry (25mpg  combined), instead of the ill-advized Vensa or makes-me-ill  Crosstour, and the weight/fuel penalty wasn’t too bad, we’d have more economical wagons to compare. 

    In my opinion, as a member of a family of four, minivans could make something of a comeback, but they will never have the appeal they used to.  We’re looking for a vehcile and, while the Sienna and the Odyssey (and even the Town & Country) were on our list to look at, we are still hoping for something both practical and reasonably economical.  Maybe it will have to be a CUV or even a smallish SUV.  Unless we can hold out for the Orlando or the rumored Ford SMax to be on sale here…

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Everybody…

    Help me out.

    IF I was to consider another minivan, WHICH one offers the POWER I want?

    I haven’t test driven a van in a decade, so I have no clue as to where to start.
    Not that there are that many left to test.
    I was often told the Honda had the most take off power, but don’t know.
    Please advise.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      TH Automotive seems to have the POWER thing nailed down in minivans.
       
      http://wot.motortrend.com/6579371/tuners/th-automotives-800-hp-vw-transporter-attempts-to-hit-186-mph-at-nardo/index.html

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Answer: Any of them. I don’t think you can buy a minivan in the US which doesn’t post sub 10 second 0-60 times.
       

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      John H.
      0 to 60 in under 10 is not what I mean by power.
      See, that’s the whole problem with me.
      I want take off zoom.
      I want to feel the push in my back.
      I guess that’s why I am turning into a turbo nut as I get older.
      I am willing to give up all other sense of dignity.
      I would like a van.
      Maybe something like this…to over the top, you think????
      http://www.truckinweb.com/brandpages/dodge/0608tr_2003_custom_dodge_caravan/index.html
      I would LOVE a sport wagon.
      I even contemplated the new caddy sportwagen, but its power is pittiful for the term “sportwagen”.
      I would prefer to go after the Audi A4.

      Look, other men get to have their mid-life crisis and get 2 seaters.
      I still want function, I just want the still immature hooligan to come out without being dissapointed.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Toyota and Honda both offer vans in the high 200 hp range.  That Toyota 3.5 is a sweet engine in anything they put it in.  I rented a Sienna a couple of years ago, and was very impressed with the push in the back in 1st and 2nd gear.

    • 0 avatar
      FishTank

      TraierTrash, I can reassuringly tell you the newer model 2006 + Toyota Siennas kick some serious speed around. 0-60 has tested anywhere from 7.3 to 8 on the frontwheel version (vs 4wd). I took my brother in law out on the weekend, and we were talking about just that. Then I showed him. He was laughing and screaming he could feel it in his lower back. All things are relative, and for a van it has some serious kick. Also turns in best-of-class fuel numbers (though honestly they are ll within 1 or 2 mpg)

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Thanks for the information on the Sienna.
      I will test and if its fun, I will consider.
      I do think, however, that it will demand a fart pipe modification.
      Just for a little bit of hooliganism.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The minivan never went away, but they aren’t “mini” anymore.  There aren’t many options for a family of 7, and I have no interest in a $50k Suburban that gets 11 mpg.  I’ve owned a 96 Grand Voyager, and now a 98 Grand Caravan – both excellent cars, and very affordable when purchased used.  I happen to think they are/were the best-looking minivans ever.
     
    The VW concept vehicle does not point the way, hopefully.  Their US products have been expensive and awful.

  • avatar

    My wife and I recently bought a 2010 Honda Odyssey. We didn’t even consider an SUV or CUV. The funny things is, my parents have owned Dodge Grand Caravans for years and until recently I would never thought of owning a minivan myself. Marriage and children have a way of changing your priorities and we decided to trade our cool VW Jetta TDI for the Odyssey. For us a minivan was just the most practical vehicle.

    The U.S. minivan market peaked at 1.37 million units in 2000. The current 2009 year to date sales figures indicate total sales of around 450,000 minivans this year. Sales should improve when the economy recovers, but I do not think future U.S. minivan sales will ever approach the numbers recorded in the 1980′s and 1990′s. The minivan is no longer the latest thing for trend conscious buyers and it now has too much competition from other segments.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Trashy,
    Try a Sienna. 270 HP stock, with plenty o’ torque. Low 7′s to 60. Handling not quite as good as the Odyssey, but it’ll still take corners that would leave any SUV/CUV upside down. I’d soup it up, but Mom would just melt the tires.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Ok, try to look at it from the other side. What would the makers have to do, to make a “cool” minivan? Or is it just enough to make one but not name it as such, like the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT, Mercedes R-Class and Chrysler Pacifica?

    How would a “cool” minivan look like? I for one, like the Honda Element way. Rugged, boxy, hoseable plastic interior.

    • 0 avatar
      rtt108

      We owned a 2002 VW Eurovan MV.   Table, curtains, rear facing 2nd row.  It was a really good looking van.  One of the things my wife got a kick out of is, at one point a bunch of teenagers came up to look at the van.  They all thought it was really cool.

      As far as vans go, we thought it was very cool, functional, great for road trips.  VW could import the T5 version with a TDI and manual transmission ?

      For me however VW would have to fix the horrendous, Yugo like, complete lack of reliability, the obnoxious customer hostile dealer service departments, and the Ferrari like repair costs … then I might look at another VW … maybe … probably not.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      A “cool” minivan?

      It looks exactly like a Chevy Traverse / Saturn Outlook / GMC Acadia / Buick Enclave.

      Those things sell very well, in lieu of GM selling a proper minivan.

      I keep thinking GM should get back into the small white van market with a new Astro.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    My wife wanted a minivan but for me they are too big and the mileage isn’t all that great.  I’ve already go that with the  Tahoe which I use to tow 4 tons of boat. Your not gonna put that behind any  minivan. For me a wagon such as Volvo’s V70  makes a lot more sense. Much better mileage than a minivan, easier to park, nicer to drive, takes up less room in my garage.  I can still get 3 kids in cars seats in the back seat and have room to take the lab to the vet.

    Will minivans make  a comeback? I don’t now about that but it’s hard to deny their versatility so I think they’ll be around for awhile.  What I really think is going to make a comeback, especially when gas goes back up, is the station wagon. Love it or hate it there is no denying Caddy’s new CTS wagon is stylish. At 50K however, it is much too expensive for the average person. Maybe though this trend of “stylish wagons” will continue with more affordable Accord, Camary, Malibu type platforms. We’ll see. To me most of these CUV’s are nothing more than cars that look like trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      rtt108

      I did read that Honda is going to bring over the Euro Accord wagon, but unfortunatly  it will be sold as an overpriced Acura … not to mention the “tow-mater” buck tooth nose.

      It puzzles me that car companies would try to sell a wagon, which is a “family car”, but in a luxury car price range that most families can’t afford ? 

      Gee, buy that nice car … or send my kids to college … hmmm.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Yes, very good things.
      The wagon is the best and still wonder whats with Americans not likeing them.
      The Caddy seems slow for that sport thing.

      the WORST new car/wagon of 2010 has to be the Honda/Acura crosswhatevers.
      I sat in the Honda at the LA show and the sale(girl) asked my thoughts.
      I said what happened to Honda!?
      Whats happened to Acura these days?
      I thought I was looking out the wrong end of an eyepiece in the rear view mirror!
      Was that the far reaches of the ever expanding universe behind me?
      Did I need the space hubble to back up?
      That has to be THE worst rear view I have ever experienced.
      And this coming from a MKS owner!

  • avatar
    JSF22

    The minivan is so uniquely useful it should survive. That said, I admit to being among the huge number of people who could use one but can’t deal with the image. The VW Microbus would have been the only minivan people would have bought because they WANTED it, and more importantly wanted to be seen in it. It is a shame VW chickened out.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    My totally unjustified belief in the basic sanity of consumers makes me believe that minivans make too much sense to not make a comeback, and concepts like VW’s Microbus show the way. What say you?

    IMHO I say the same thing about why wagons have to make a comeback.  With my significant other and I, who don’t have any children yet, we sometimes argue about CUV vs minivan.  Honestly I’m part of that group of guys who would rather have a minivan than a CUV and she’s part of that group of women who wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan.  I see that the minivan, lb. for lb., are more practical and better values, what she sees is a “mommy mobile” that isn’t cool enough for her to drive.  Personally I would prefer a mid to full size wagon and she’s ok with ME driving one of those but has flat out said she would refuse to ride in a minivan if we had one.  That gets a good laugh out of me because now CUVs are the true “mommy mobiles.”  Our compromise is that she’ll end up driving the smallest CUV that suits her needs.  Right now she drives a Pontiac Vibe and says that it’s a crossover (I say it’s a tall wagon but only when she’s not paying attention :P).

    On a related note, how cool would a modern Impala Wagon be?  Imagine one as an SS back when you could still order a 5.3V8!

  • avatar
    carve

    That VW van concept looked cool….but like a lot of concept vehicles wasn’t terribly practical.  It was designed to look similar to the original sit-over-the-front-wheels bus, but in a design where the driver didn’t sit in the crumple zone.  This basically meant they had to PUT THE WINDSHIELD AT THE FRONT EDGE OF THE HOOD (or very nearly)!
    Minivans are great vehicles- extremely practical, reasonably efficient, and fairly comfortable.  Their failings are styling, fun-to-drive factor, and boring, stodgy image.
    Vans like the Odyssey have good, but not great, styling, and have been made more fun to drive, although there’s only so much you can do with vehicles so tall.  What they really need to do is promote the adventure/road trip/camping with a ton of gear aspect.  Kind of like what the Aztek was trying to do, but without making the body less practical and uglier in the process.  Offer optional integrated-in exterior gear lockers, kitchen areas, and seats that fold into beds that stow up to the side, Element style, with room underneath so you don’t have to remove all your stuff to sleep for the night.  Make Lexus and Acura spinoffs.  Make sleek GT versions with good handling, and make lifted, burly 4wd versions (like an Odyssey with Pilot ground clearance).

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The minivan will do fine.  Why?  One simple reason:
    “Ouch.  Quit it.  Dad, he touched me!  No I didn’t.  Yes you DID.  Well, you looked at me first.  Mom, tell her to stop looking at me….”
    The minivan — with captains chairs — allows you to keep the kids apart from each other.  Everyone has their own space, reducing the “ouch quit it”s.  CUVs and Large SUVs don’t do this as well, and they also don’t allow much ingress/egress to the third row.  Just try getting a 2 year old into his carseat in the ‘way back’ of an SUV.  No dice.
    In America, it really is tough to do 3 kids without a minivan.  Now that said, minivans could be a lot smaller.  I wish Chrysler had kept the non-grand vans — those seemed like the right size for a lot of folks.

    • 0 avatar
      rtt108

      Even more … with 3 kids you MUST have the 3rd row!  (well you could shoe horn them all in the second row, but we all know how that will work out) 

      Thanks to airbags, the front passenger seat is now useless for children.  And we wonder why everyone is driving huge vehicles!

  • avatar

    Minivans are too sensible not to make a comeback. There will always be a certain percentage of the population that think rationally.

  • avatar
    FishTank

    Sherborn, I hear you. We have 2 minivans. One (not so mini) 2007 Toyota Sienna, and a 1998 Pontiac TransSport I bought for $1,000 CDN off my sister-in-law. Had to – it only had 101,000 kms on it. Sold the Miata, and here we are [sobs]. I usually deride GM’s quality, but this one aint bad (inarguably for the price). We at one point had 3 kids under 2 years old (twins and older 1). There is NO WAY we could function without them. The Sienna is an ABSOLUTE monster size-wise inside. Sitting in that back row brings back memories of hanging with the cool kids in grade school on the yellow bus. That being said, it’s still a tight fit with kid car seats reclined for the twins. I can’t imagine anyone carting three (at this age anyway) kids around in anything less.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Even more … with 3 kids you MUST have the 3rd row!  (well you could shoe horn them all in the second row, but we all know how that will work out)” 

    I disagree. I have a 5 & 2  year old and new born. I don’t think it will be a big  deal to get them all in a second row bench seat. In fact part of my test while shopping has been putting the kid seats in the vehicle to see how they fit. The Volvo has built in bolsters available which negates the need for a car seat for my 5 year old.

    “I see that the minivan, lb. for lb., are more practical and better values, what she sees is a “mommy mobile” that isn’t cool enough for her to drive.” 

    Wait till she’s actually a mommy and then see how her priorities change…..LOL

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Some philosophical thoughts.
     
    We see cars as an extension of how we live.
    “Don’t have a car? Oh, you’re a have-not.”
    “Have a car? What kind? oh an Acura, must be well-heeled.”
    “Oh he drives an Acura? Why didn’t he buy a Bimmer instead? Must be a Japanese lover.”
    And so on…
     
    We pass judgments on cars the same way we pass judgments on people and stereotype to save time or keep things simple to understand. Minivans got stereotyped a while back and haven’t come out of that funk. A car can no longer be classified without using the word “too”. A minivan is too domestic, SUVs are too heavy on gas, Japanese cars are too boring, 3-series are too common, American cars are too unreliable, small cars are too dangerous. With these definitive judgments there will never be a suitable car/van/truck.
     
    As was echoed in some previous thoughts, “we found it to be the best match for our requirements” (i.e. minivan for some) is often not explored in the car buying process because some vehicles are just too _____ (insert comment).
     
    People don’t vocalize what they want in a car, it’s up to marketing groups to tell people what they like. Even more often, conservative car makers wait for someone else to take a risk and if it sells then they pounce all over it (i.e. SUV craze, Audi snouts, Bangle butts, crossovers, etc). It’s always going to be soup de jour unless people speak out on what they really need in a car. Unfortunately you’ll never see a consensus on that. Even on this site, the responses are as wild and varied as anywhere.
     
    Personally, I’d like to see car manufacturers build light, roomy, gutless cars with manual transmissions that get incredible gas mileage. File that one under “When hell freezes over”.
     
    We bought a CR-V a few years ago. We looked at minivans but we didn’t have any kids at the time and the gas mileage seemed frightening. We like to go camping for weeks at a time and we need to load up a bunch of stuff so we wanted something like a wagon. There wasn’t much choice in wagons so we looked at used small SUVs. I wanted a Forester but couldn’t find one at the right price, and the CR-V was a good second choice.
     
    Now years later, I still appreciate our car for it’s versatility but the gas mileage is miserable and find myself pining for a wagon again. I learned along the way what I didn’t know then, that the secret to all of life’s ills, is a small utility trailer. Camping trips with our child are a breeze with that extra towed space and it makes me realize that a much smaller vehicle would be an option for us. I doubt I’ll bother though now that I’m settled with our car (I don’t consider it a truck) and don’t want to spend more money to swap out.
     
    If there’s going to be a renaissance with minivans, it will have to be on a much smaller scale in a time where gas prices are much higher than they are now. I’m curious to see what happens when the C-Max arrives. I’m sure those other scaredy cat companies are waiting to see how it does too.

  • avatar

    I agree with the comments on the maxi sizing of minivans.  I’ve commented on other posts on this site before about my ’06 Mazda MPV.  Yes, I know they never sold very well in the U.S., and I know they were underpowered for the first couple of years.  But, really, I can’t imagine a need for more interior room unless you truly carry 7 people every day.  And the car is on the same physical footprint as the Chevy Malibu it replaced.  It handles well, has decent pick up and holds enough for a road trip across country.
     
    Wagons are also terrifichaulers  as well — and my ’90 Volvo 240 can swallow almost as much as the MPV and a whole heck of a lot more than most SUVs/CUVs.  I think the questions really is what one expects their car to handle.  Do you want tons of space?  Do you want sedan-like performance?  What do you want to compromise on?  We also owned a ’00 Passat with the turbo 4 and a 5 spd stick.  Loved that thing — almost a no copromise vehicle — decent space and a hoot to drive.  But, in the end, I think folks want everything and something has to give at some point.  Minivans compete in a marketplace with many more choices in body styles.  They will probably never dominate the market as they once did, but they will always have their niche.

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    What comeback? I live near an elementary and middle school and see tons of minivans pass by every day. Granted, I see Suburbans and Expeditions, but there are more minivans than full-size SUVs.


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