By on January 22, 2012

If there’s one thing that enthusiasts and the general public can agree on, it’s that minivans are deeply uncool. The terms “swagger wagon” or “man van” may seem like oxymorons, but the minivan marking has seen slow growth this past year.

The Chrysler 700C was an interesting indication of where the segment is heading, although it would be a shocker if the Pentastar brand actually released a vehicle looking that radical. One Automotive News pundit seems to think that there’s a future in the minivan segment. We’ll leave it up to you.

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152 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Will Minivans Bounce Back?...”


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I think (hope?) that as times get harder, people get more practical. If you *need* the kind of space a minivan provides, no vehicle is more practical.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Practical for contractors, maybe. But as a former minivan owner with a wife and two kids, I can honestly say that 99% of the time there was nothing practical about it. It was just a big, silly, 4200-pound family guy status symbol that made sense only when compared to a bigger, sillier, 5000-pound SUV status symbol.

      If we’re really being “practical” then most of us will own a 4-cylinder compact car, and we’ll rent a bigger rig when we truly need it.

      • 0 avatar
        bbbuzzy

        Maybe you didn’t really need it then. For those who frequently need to put 5 or more people in one vehicle, they make sense. Don’t own one yet, but am considering all three row vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        me’thinks you do not know about families with 3 toddlers, and the entourage that must go with them. Even a suburban doesnt really stack up against a sienna for the cargo space needed. :)

      • 0 avatar
        mac

        Well, that just says to me that auto makers have totally lost the plot about what’s truly necessary in a vehicle.

        My parents bought an ’87 Voyager new. After 350k HARD miles, it gave up the ghost in 1995, and they replaced it with a ’94 Caravan. Neither was the stretched “Grand” model, so they were both pretty short vehicles – shorter than our ’91 Camry! Great little bare-bones vehicles for hauling 2 kids and luggage across the country and back, or hauling 2-3 family’s worth of kids out to dinner.

        Remember, the early Chrysler minivans were based of the K-car platform, they basically *were* 4-cylinder compact cars.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Minivans are the penalty for getting your wife pregnant more than twice. That is why they are about as much fun to own and drive as a confessional booth.

        Practical? Yeah – about as practical as dropping $30,000 for a vehicle your kids swifty turn into a rolling vomitorium.

        I can justify forcing a young useless stoner into driving a windowless minivan to a work site to deliver lunch. Or filling a minivan up with useful stuff you need to do your work. I can see using a minivan at work in order to get a pay check. Getting paid to drive a minivan is definately justified.

        These vehicles have a future because they are one of those things that non-minivan owners, or insane minivan owners encourage young families to own.

        Minivans are about as practical as a bus. And about as fun to drive and own. Some people like buses. Everyone else sees them as punishment.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Overgrown child seats, strollers and kids menus have rendered compacts, and even most of the wagons Americans can get their hands on, to small for 3 kids, which isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) some sort of world class flaunting of fertility.

        Even Minivans are too small for a kitted out 5 kid family. That’s Econoline or Sprinter territory.

        A good alternative for those in possession of both children (<=3) and a soul, is the E wagon (63), with a big roofbox for those times when you need to haul more than the car holds, and a trailer for those times when you really need to haul. But America doesn't get many wagons that size.

        Big, crewcab trucks work well, too, as long as you don't mind making your kids stand forward bent in the sun until their neck is nice and red :) Heck, Raptor vs. Minivan? Hmmmmm…….

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @mac: “Remember, the early Chrysler minivans were based of the K-car platform, they basically *were* 4-cylinder compact cars.”

        One of my neighbor’s in-laws drives one (still), and I’ve been looking at it sitting outside of my house. Sizewise, it looks closer to the dimensions of my Escape (with sliding doors and less ground clearance) than of the modern Grand Caravan.

    • 0 avatar

      As a business vehicle, a minivan may work quite well, as I learned when one of my former companies used a Chevy Lumina minivan. Its capacity was quite surprising.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      As times get harder, purchasing $30k minivans does not seem very practical to me. People are more likely to buy used than new, if they really need a van… And that won’t help the market.

      • 0 avatar
        cmoibenlepro

        A $45k crossover makes more sense?

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Did I say or imply that? SUVs and CUVs start around $20k, larger ones are under $30k. There are more options for discounts on utilities, or so it seems.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Harder times will also make those who did buy a Minivan new, wait longer before they trade it in. Making used ones harder to come by.

        In general, a Minivan won’t last longer than it takes kids to grow up. So, at least 1 minivan per 3+ kid family. Unless people have, in recent years, been buying minivans for other purposes than 3+ kids, the total of new ones sold, should not drop unless either 3+ kid families become rarer, or 3+ kid families can find more practical alternatives.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Yes, but not the one in the photo. I pity the 2nd row passengers who have a decreasing forward side view because some designer thought it was cool.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I think that as long as gas continues to stay in the $3-$4 a gallon mark at its cheapest, we’ll see people rethinking the need for a super large vehicle that barely cracks the mid 20′s in gas for something much more realistic.

    This means that the supersized segment (my overall term for anything CUV/SUV/minivan/truck segments) will get downsized to more sensible levels as the costs to produce these monstrosities begin to get out of hand, let alone their operational costs to the end user.

    So in that respect, I think the minivan segment will live on in some fashion once they are right sized and yet prove to be as much if not more practical than most SUV/CUV for the same price, if not a bit less and often get better mileage too.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Nissan Quest was an attempt to make a cool minivan. It was a commercial flop, in large part because of that very reason.

    The differences between SUV and minivan drivers have been researched. One can generalize that minivan drivers, quite unlike SUV drivers, like to think of themselves as family people and prefer to own a vehicle that reinforces that message. They not only don’t want a hip minivan, they would make a point of avoiding such a thing.

    The downside of minivans is fuel consumption. CUVs do a good job of providing a somewhat more efficient alternative that doesn’t alienate the proud parents with the wrong styling message.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      But vehicles like the Mazda5, Kia Rondo, and (Canada-only) Chevy Orlando offer a smaller sensible shoes option.

    • 0 avatar

      The coolest minivan ever is still considered cool. It’s called the VW Microbus. If VW had actually commercialized the new microbus concept,I suspect they would have sold many times as many copies as they did with that rebadged chrysler thingy, the Routan.

      As Pch101 said, the studies showed that family people prefer minivans. The flipside: men with small p3nises, and women with equivalent self confidence problems prefer SUVs over minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        alluster

        “The flipside: men with small p3nises, and women with equivalent self confidence problems prefer SUVs over minivans.”

        You know this because you pulled the pants down of every SUV driving man to check? This stereotype is no truer than boring, nerdy women driving minivans or that men don’t buy chick cars like the RAV4 and CRV.

        I wonder why GM and Ford have completely abandoned minivans. Its about a 300,000 unit a year segment, wide open for the taking. With CUV’s getting 25 MPG on the highway, there is very little reason to buy a mommy mobile. GM should just bring the Orlando and price it under 20K to steal some minivan sales. Its not as big or versatile as the sienna or odyssey, but for people who want a cheap alternative with great fuel economy while sacrificing little interior room. Or fit sliding doors on the Traverse or Acadia to make minivans finally look cool.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You know this because you pulled the pants down of every SUV driving man to check?

        Not much need to do that. The market research confirms it.

        Take a few days off from mangling automotive sales statistics, and go read Keith Bradsher’s High and Mighty. Sure, it’s a bit of a polemic, but it does address how the automakers segmented SUVs from minivans in order to appeal to different personality attributes and tastes, and that SUV drivers were more likely to share certain characteristics that play into these very stereotypes. He interviewed the Detroit automakers in compiling the research, and the conclusions are credible.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Alluster – ever loaded a Minivan? You’ll need 3 or 4 CUV’s to carry the same gear. And you’ll probably handle a lot worse. So where’s the equivalence?

      • 0 avatar

        SUV drivers were more likely to share certain characteristics that play into these very stereotypes

        Could you provide a quote or at least a citation from Bradsher’s book or his sources that references small penises?

      • 0 avatar
        thehips

        Or you mean people who live in cold climates where there’s 2 feet of snow on the ground 7 months of the year, or have large families and want to tow thier toys to the lake or cottage. I really don’t believe my penis size had anything to do with my vehicle purchase at all. That’s like saying all girls who put on makeup lack self confidence, or all men who decide not to wear sweat pants and stained wife beaters on a date have small dicks. If you’re going to spend that much money on a vehicle you might as well buy the jeans and ditch the sweats even if they are slightly more comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        Nate

        How about the fact that it’s MY $30k, and I prefer the looks of a mid-sized SUV to a minivan? Does that automatically shrink the size of my male anatomy? Also, are people who drive minivans the ONLY well endowed members of our society? What about Panther enthusiasts? Or motorcyclists? This stereotype is woefully inadequate. (pun intended)

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        With sliding doors, the Acadia would be a minivan, with decent space for awd. A bit smaller on the inside than the big players, but not by much.

        Without the sliders, it is still awfully clumsy compared to a similarly priced Sienna or Ody.

        New US market minivans are almost freakishly perfect for transporting contemporary families with all their toys and safety appendages. So much so, that I’m surprised they are not being fitted with a 4cyl diesel and sold by the boatloads in Europe.

        Over there, despite all the smaller, “hipper” vans and bigger wagons, the number of family guys driving around in Caravelles, small Sprinters and such to get enough space is surprising. And as nice as those are if you REALLY need space, they completely suck to drive; to an extent US minivan drivers probably cannot begin comprehending.

    • 0 avatar
      yesthatsteve

      Try loading a sheet of plywood (or 10) in a CUV. Minivan FTW!

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        How often do people really haul around plywood? Maybe some fence posts or 2x4s but plywood? I own a home and do a number if projects but really don’t need a full sheet if plywood. I would think most folks that frequently do haul plywood have a pickup… Which allows you to haul 6 people and plywood.

      • 0 avatar
        TCragg

        One of the reasons I ditched my MPV and moved up to a Chrysler derivative (Routan) was because the MPV was a bit too narrow and would not carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood. I just hauled 2 sheets home yesterday, and I have no desire to own a truck to accomplish the same task. With a toddler and all of his accoutrements, I find a van to be indipensible. We also have a Passat wagon, and despite being as roomy as some CUVs, it still doesn’t hold a candle to a van.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Gordon

        That’s hilarious – one of the reason I just bought a 2005 Chrysler Grand Voyager (apart from having a fourth child) over say a ML Merc or some such was the ability to carry standard size plywood and plaster sheet or doors should the whim take me…

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Roof racks.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      The downside of minivans is fuel consumption. CUVs do a good job of providing a somewhat more efficient alternative

      Maybe if you’re downsizing by 500 pounds in the process. But swapping a 4200-pound Quest for a 4200-pound Santa Fe definitely did not save me any fuel. The ‘Fe has truck-like aerodynamics, especially on the undercarriage, whereas the Quest was relatively sleek and low-slung. But in all honesty neither vehicle is particularly “efficient”, as per my comments above.

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      Well, when I was looking to buy minivan, I did not even looked at Nissan Quest. You know why? Ones I saw commercial on tv for a new quest ( Moms have change and so minivan ) I was like ????? So Nissan ONLY expecting Moms drive it? So I bought brand new 2008 Mazda 5 Grand Turing. Also reliability on new Quest was left too much to desire. Well this is my story. I still drive Mazda5, sort of, when my wife let me. She hates our 08 Lexus GS 350 because it is not as comfortable. Regrettably, I agree with her.

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      Hmmm considering the purchase and operating cost increment of SUV over minivans (fuel economy), does the author conclude that less-endowed gentlemen have more disposable income?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “Hmmm considering the purchase and operating cost increment of SUV over minivans (fuel economy), does the author conclude that less-endowed gentlemen have more disposable income?”

        Kid are expensive, and being well endowed means you’re likely to make more of them, so that must be the long and short of it.

  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    There’s a place for these vans, no doubt. I’ve got a wife and three kids, it’s what our main family car should be BUT in the main the vehicles are terminally uncool. Not to say slow, too. And it probably doesn’t help that none of the upmarket makers have ever made a decent attempt at one.

    A successful vehicle in this segment would be desirable and appeal to men as well as women – fast, comfortable, good-looking, while retaining the utility you would expect. Closest attempt so far is the Ford S-Max which aside from the lack of 4wd and V6 TDi is a handsome, good handling car. Oh, it also has the interior composed almost entirely of shiny silver plastic, but that’s a EuroFord thing I hope they get over sooner rather than later.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      Methinks you may not have driven one lately…There is nothing “slow” about a 3.5liter Sienna or Odyssey from about 2005 and newer…At least compared to the average SUV that people compare them with. Both are EASILY capable of exceeding any speed limit in the US and doing so for sustained lengths of time. Are they cool? I don’t know. Neither do I care what others think. All that matters to me is my own comfort and convenience as long as it does not negatively affect others. If I need to have something else that the neighbors can envy, well, that’s what the other two spaces in the garage are for…AWD and a V6TDi would more likely make a minivan even heavier and less “fast” than what is currently available.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      I drove a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country last week, and there aint nothing slow about it (this is coming from someone who drives a BMW 325/manual sport package). The Pentastar engine makes 283bhp, and frankly, I thought it handled and drove better than my dad’s 2008 BMW 530i.

      Mazda5 = Miata
      T&C = BMW 3 series
      Odyssey = Buick (sorry, but I really was underwhelmed by the 2012 Odyssey).

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    They’ll come back because the traditional wagon has come back. People will soon (again) realize that a sedan with the roof stretched to the taillights really isn’t a very efficient people/goods mover.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      But a sedan is an even LESS efficient people and goods mover so what is your point? I want a vehicle that drives well AND can carry a reasonable amount of stuff, even if that stuff is in large boxes. Jacking the vehicle an extra foot in the air is NOT the way to accomplish the first aim, but the ‘two box’ bodystyle does accomplish the second. Hence I buy station wagons.

      I do think we need to stop calling minivans minivans. At this point they are just plain vans, with nothing mini about them at all. CUVs are the worst of all worlds – jacked up so the don’t drive well, too short to have any amount of cargo space, even though they have a hatch. No offroad ability so what is the point of jacking it up in the air?

      • 0 avatar
        dejal1

        Could you compile a list of CUVs jacked up a foot?

        A Suburban has 9.1 inches of ground clearance.

        A Traverse has 7.2 inches of ground clearance.

        A CRV has 6.7 inches of ground clearance.

        The Suburban which is a truck isn’t a foot off the ground.

  • avatar
    rjones

    Not as long as they look like that abomination.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I think the large 4,000lb+ minivan has issues. However I can see the Nissan NV200 being successful. It is the new New York cab.

    It is under 3,000lb and has a 2.0 litre four with a CVT. It will seat up to 7 but I get it’ll be slow going loaded up.

    Surely a cheap little van that can take the occasional load and will get upwards of 30mpg will find a market in the US?

    I also think there’s a certain cool to a van like this.

    Where I can vans such as the VW Transporter with the turbo diesel fours that do 200hp are pretty cool in way… especially decked out in leather and captains chairs and the like.

  • avatar
    cap10rob

    First Post!

    As I have stated elsewhere online, GMC should build a new “Safari” van with the styling from their Granite concept and an AWD option.

    I am in my late 20′s, a car guy, have no kids and do not plan to, and I would love to buy a van, nothing is more practical. To me, sliding doors are far better than traditional doors on a SUV/CUV.

    I had a Safari early in my driving career and loved it. I camped in it, hauled my quad, took road trips with my friends, and used it for work. It was decently quick too, with the 4.3l Vortec.

    I want another, unfortunately no manufacturer makes a van this size.

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      I’m with you on this one. 18 yeas ago had Astro van. Did same things with it as you. That thing was a TANK. Junk it with 300K+ miles on a clock. Original motor and tranny. It was loosing all sort of fluids, but it was a great van. Easy to work on. One day it will be my project car (Astro van AWD)..one day.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    Come back? The size of the minivan segment is still bigger than a lot of others out there.
    I went to the auto shown and I definitely like it from the front seats forward but the rear puts too much of a squeeze on it’s passengers. This one is not a seven passenger vehicle.

  • avatar
    imag

    I actually *like* the Sienna SE. Modern minivans are like family limos. I think they are actually pretty cool… but I don’t have kids.

    Even if I did, there would be the problem: who would drive it daily? My wife is apparently too fashionable to accept a minivan as her primary car (my guess is that women are the real reason by the lagging sales), and there is no way I am going to drive a FWD tall automatic with crap brakes on a daily basis.

    We have had a blast renting minivans for trips with friends. They make bitchin’ vacation cruisers. When the weekend is over, you hand the big thing back and the old sports car feels like a Lotus.

  • avatar
    rw33

    I can see minivans improving to yearly sales of 800,000 but I don’t think they’ll top a million, not with all the crossovers. The days that Chrysler sold over half a million minivans are over since the only alternatives were GM and Ford vans, Explorers, and full size SUVs for those who bought vehicles based on space and capability.The big players will continue to be Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota. Ford is a wildcard with the small Euro minivan that will be brought here in the next few years. I know Chrysler is planning to eliminate one of the minivans but I really hope they don’t. They Can easiy continue building both the T&C and G/C provided they’re clearly differentiated in the same way the Camry is from the ES350. One is volume while the other is luxury. It would be good for them though to bring back the Caravan as Fiat mini-minivan. Also I think Chrysler should build a CUV on the next minivan platform. The Pacifica in the early 2000s was a good concept that beat many other crossovers to market but they mishandled the marketing and it was the victim of the Daimler costcutting days.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      I guess we all differ on car opinions (as if…), but the ES350 just screams “I am a expensive upscale Camry” when I see them in traffic. They don’t look as good as the Camry in my opinion! And with all the luxo junk, I would guess it probably accelerates like a rock or a steel i-beam with a consumer leaf blower for propulsion.

      Even if it had a dramatic mean streak over the V6 Camry, the Camry still looks better!

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      Also I think Chrysler should build a CUV on the next minivan platform.

      It’s called Journey.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    congrats to WRohrl for reading my mind and saying it before I did.

    My flavor would be An Astro van or one of the rwd vans from any of the japanese car companies. A small trailer lets this be a functionally small or large vehicle as you choose. As for the comment abot small p_____s, I know several working men who worked out of those small vans that could probably argue with you.

    The van is the most practical vehicle made IMO. I think it got left behind by those with more money and style than brains. I know many won’t agree but that is my $.02 worth.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    The word “minivan” is giving me a headache. There’s nothing “mini” about them, except for the Mazda 5 I suppose, so the segment could already be deemed dead since it has morphed into something very “maxi.”

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I agree. Our Grand Caravan is definitely not mini, and neither are most of the other mainstays as well. I just call them ‘vans’ because, as you say, they’re anything but mini.

      Oh, and in response to the posts above, I use the van whenever I need some plywood, sheet rock, or anything substantial like that for home renovations, woodworking and such. Just fold the seats and it’s perfect. It certainly beats renting a trailer or truck.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    If I have the facts straight , The Transit Connect comes with seats. My company uses them for work vans and I see them all over the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      All of those that are imported to the US are shipped with seats installed, in order to get around the chicken tax. Once they’re in port, the seats are removed from the cargo van models, and those seats are destroyed.

      • 0 avatar

        Ford’s marketed the Transit Connect with a back seat since they first introduced it to the US market, with “seating up to 5″. Now maybe Ford is doing the dance of importing them as passenger vehicles and then trashing the seats so they can sell them as trucks, but it sure looks like they’re selling the TC with at least an optional back seat. The top two TC trim lines are called “Wagon” and have rear glass so the passengers can see out. I suppose that it’s possible that Ford is doing what you say they are doing, but I’d like to see some kind of proof that it’s not an urban legend before I’d take it as factual.

        http://www.ford.com/trucks/transitconnect/features/#page=FeatureCategory3

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’d like to see some kind of proof that it’s not an urban legend before I’d take it as factual.

        I guess that you don’t read the Wall Street Journal.

        The company’s wiggle room comes from the process of defining a delivery van. Customs officials check a bunch of features to determine whether a vehicle’s primary purpose might be to move people instead. Since cargo doesn’t need seats with seat belts or to look out the window, those items are on the list. So Ford ships all its Transit Connects with both, calls them “wagons” instead of “commercial vans.” Installing and removing unneeded seats and windows costs the company hundreds of dollars per van, but the import tax falls dramatically, to 2.5 percent, saving thousands.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125357990638429655.html

        You may not have bothered with Car and Driver, either:

        In order to sidestep the so-called “chicken tax”—the very tariff originally intended to protect domestic vehicle manufacturers from foreign competition—every Transit Connect arrives stateside in wagon trim, complete with rear seats, safety belts, and rear windows. Enacted in 1963 by admitted Texan and 36th U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, the tax placed a 25-percent import duty on trucks and commercial vans entering the U.S., a direct rebuttal to the heavy tariffs Europe placed on the import of U.S. chickens. It’s this same clearheaded diplomacy and rational trade policy that gave us the DieYankee Foon wagon, better known in the U.S. as the Subaru BRAT. Because really, once the burden of propping up the European poultry market was removed from our nation’s shoulders, the obvious patriotic move was to take to the roads en masse in mini-trucks with lawn-furniture-grade seats welded into the bed. Ronald Reagan owned a red ’78 model, says Subaru.

        Assembled in Kocaeli, Turkey, the Transit Connect’s first U.S. stop is a warehouse in Baltimore, where the majority of them undergo minor procedures to be converted into cargo vans. Windows are replaced with metal panels, and the rear seats are removed and shipped to Ohio for—according to Ford—recycling. You’d think someone in Dearborn saw Midnight Express.

        http://www.caranddriver.com/features/2010-ford-transit-connect

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the links. Could you tell me what other publications you think I should read? You’re welcome to buy me gift subscriptions.

      • 0 avatar
        slow kills

        I don’t doubt that the seats are removed. I doubt that they are destroyed.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The extra seats in the US-bound Transit Connect are specially made for easy recycling after they’re removed at port. You wouldn’t want to sit in them, even if you could somehow sneak them out.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Fahey

      The fact that the Transit is called a “van” while the Odyssey is called a “minivan” just points to the absurdity of this segment, whatever it is.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m sure transmission shops hope they bounce back.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    It’s a C, so does it have a Hemi?

    The problem I see with small minivans like Mazda5 is that the third row is very uncomfortable and there is little to no cargo space when using it.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I look at the third row in something that small (be it van or CUV) as emergency jumpseats. You’re not buying one of these because you consistently need 6-7 seats, you buy one if you’ve got a couple kids, and occasionally need the space for a couple of their friends, or grandparents, or whatever. As 5-seaters, they’re perfectly sized, but flexible enough that they’ll sub in for something larger in a pinch.

      • 0 avatar
        dima

        Agree, this is how we use our Mazda5.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        No, they’re 4-seaters. Unless the latest redesign of the Mazda5 added in the center jumpseat to the second row, it’s still a 2+2+2 configuration with the 2nd row center position even less suited as a seating surface than the 3rd row. I think the Ford C-max or S-max was supposed to include the 3rd 2nd-row seat but that launch never happened in the US market. Any requirement of a 5th passenger requires the 3rd row, which kills any cargo hauling ability unless the kid in the way-back (because it won’t be an adult unless they have dwarfism) is strong and mature enough to hold the cargo in place around corners as it tries to slide into their lap. Even still, the most cargo in that situation (with half the 3rd row occupied) you’re limited to a few grocery bags’ worth of cargo, and with the entire 3rd row up you’re limited to about a golf umbrella (provided it isn’t too long when folded up), plus whatever you can cram onto the floor under or between passengers.

        This is what killed the Mazda5-sized van for us and put us in a used Odyssey as we regularly haul three kids and several times a year another couple in addition to us and the three kids for mini vacations.

  • avatar
    Hank

    “If there’s one thing that enthusiasts and the general public can agree on, it’s that minivans are deeply uncool.”

    I’m an enthusiast, and I deeply disagree. And so do many of the B&B every stinkin’ time this topic comes up, so you’d think this meme would just die off, but then, I think this is just comment baiting. D’oh! And I just fed it.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The price of gas, the ‘cool’ factor and market substitutes have already been covered quite a bit here.

    But there’s one other major variable that has impacted the minivan market…

    Family size.

    Most family households simply have four or fewer people. The United States is knee-deep in a retiring boomer population and an 80 million plus member strong Generation Y.

    There is simply no need for a large minivan demand at the moment.

    Ten years from now it may change. Or, we may end up like most of Europe with negative population growth and even smaller households.

    There can not be a demand without a need.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      I just spent last night with room full of Gen Xers whose parents (all older Boomers) are now part of the car-buying equation. We have a van so that our family of four can also haul grandparents when needed. SUVs and CUVs are *terrible* for people needing knee replacements, back surgery, etc. We’re hauling our aging parents a lot, and minivans are best suited for this duty. Of the couples there, 2/3s had already traded their SUVs and sports sedans, the other 1/3 was already test-driving minivans. It’s not just about the four seats you need to fit your spouse and 2 kids, you’ve got grandparents to consider, too. And if you all had kids in jr. high, gramps can still hurdle to the third row of a Tahoe. But if your parents are aging Boomers, you need easy access and entry/exit height, which means minivan ftw.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    I think minivans would certainly be cooler if they were marketed the right way. They’re better for hauling people and equipment (bikes/kayaks/snowboards/etc) for outdoor adventures than SUVs (and do a good job of towing as well). But manufacturers, I think, are reluctant to market that way because they don’t want to hurt (higher margin) SUV/CUV sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      But no ground clearance for the places you are likely to take bikes, kayaks and snow boards. Sure, the common consumer areas keep their roads reasonably clear, but many national forests and parks need a true SUV or at least the AWD available in many CUVs.

      The old Aerostar AWD was a cool solution. At the time it arrived, it was a good performer because of the AWD. I was a teenager at the time, and my buddy and I took his Mom’s for a spin. That machine could plant its’, at the time, considerable 200hp 4.0L V6 all on the ground at once. It could out accelerate some of the common V6 and 4 cylinder versions of muscle cars at the time. And it could claw its way up to teenager killing speeds on dirt roads before you could blink!

      • 0 avatar
        Slocum

        Meh–we really haven’t had any lot of trouble with a minivan on dirt forest-service roads. But most of the time, you’re taking you skiis, bikes, and kayaks to a trailhead parking lot. Going into the back country is what you do *after* you park the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Heh heh, when our goons were being hauled around, I opted for Jeep Grand Wagoneers. I’ve never been a fan of wrong wheel drive. I also had a pair of Ford station wagons, come to think of it, they all had faux wood siding

  • avatar
    MRL325i

    I hope minivans remain “deeply uncool”. I like paying very little for a highly useful and comfortable people and gear hauler. Four Blizzaks and a Thule box make for a perfect VT ski vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      happycamper

      Recently, Autoweek had a Mazda 5 and a Honda Odyssey as long-term test vehicles. After one year of driving, the gas mileage between the two was less than 2 mpg. So, I don’t know why someone would pick the Mazda over a full-size van.
      I have a Toyota Sienna, and wouldn’t trade it for anything else as a family vehicle. Need more room? Put the rear seats down and nothing needs to be left behind. Need to haul? Hook up a trailer and its good for 3500 lbs. I rented a trailer and brought home a pallet of retaining wall block. The next day I used the trailer to get 6 large trees.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        It’s worth remembering that Mazda hasn’t traditionally built the most fuel efficient engines – hopefully they’ll get a newer Skyactiv unit in the 5 soon and widen that gap a little.

        That said, the 5 weighs about 1000lbs less – that’s going to have a big enough impact on the driving feel that it’s not unreasonable to pick the smaller vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        The initial purchase cost difference is fairly significant as well…

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      Not sure how they test it. We are getting about 25 ml/g in 60/40 driving in NJ. No way maxivan can come close to it.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Minivans are the new stationwagon are the soon to be SUVs. All three body styles are probably here for the long haul and each will be hated in turn.

    If only someone besides Mazda was really selling a smaller minivan I bet it would sure catch on… Oh wait, there go a Honda Fit and a Prius V. Full sized minivans are great, but they really are too big for some people’s taste and needs, and the gadgets the class comes standard with aren’t that reliable or desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      Well your examples are fine size wise. The difference is Mazda 5 have slider doors. Big difference when you need to insert small kids inside in tight parking spaces. Without sliders, station wagon just as good as any mini/maxi van. I think this is a reason is why Ford Flex is not too “flexeble”. No sliders, so no replacement of traditional mini vans

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    Can someone give me a resoned explanation as to why minivans are “uncool”? Out of all the hats a parent wears (say worker, athlete, volunteer, homeowner, mechanic, etc) isn’t parent the most important?

    We have an 08 Sienna and it’s a terrific family vehicle. Comfortably hauls up to 7 people and gear, hauls 4×8 sheetrock, easy to load the kids with the sliding doors and don’t have to worry about dinging up the car in the next parking spot, the 266hp 3.5L has plenty of giddyup and gets 23MPG, endless amount of storage room inside, cuts through snow no problem and so on.

    But I have friends with kids who will never get one even though they admit it’s what they really need. Why, oh why? Is it just ego? Or is there really something else?

  • avatar
    MRL325i

    In reading thru these posts, the minivan defenders (me included) sound an awful lot like Prius/hybrid defenders…

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Having no kids I have no need for a minivan, but what really bugs me about them as opposed to something like a Flex, Explorer, Traverse, etc, is the interior styling and layout.

    The second and third rows may be easier to access in a minivan, and they may be more practical when all is said and done, but they feel too much like an appliance from the driver’s seat. I loathe dash mounted shifters with a passion (though oddly column shifters don’t bother me), the cockpits are all too airy and open, and the view from the driver’s seat is more akin to a bloated car than the all-conquering-king-of-the-road feel that SUVs and big CUVs provide.

    I want a driver’s seat that feels like an overstuffed recliner with a big leather wrapped center console next to me and a high wood covered center stack that slopes gracefully down from the dash to form a nice cozy cockpit. I want room to stretch out my legs, but still to feel that isolation from the rest of the vehicle. Big sedans like the Taurus, 300, and A8 offer that experience, as do big SUV/CUVs like the Expedition, Explorer, and Traverse. The cost of a loaded Explorer isn’t that much more than a loaded Taurus, and the fuel economy is within acceptable limits for both, so if I had kids I needed to cart around I’d just go for the bigger vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      As you seem to understand, your complaints are features, not bugs. You’re complaining about too much interior volume and maneuverability.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      3 friends and I spent 12 days in Glacier with one of these “OMGdon’tcallitaminivan” full size CUVs and I was pretty unimpressed with the interior space thanks to engineering decisions made on the insistance that it wasn’t a minivan. We had a Buick Enclave. High load floor? check. Wallowing handling thanks to high CG? check. Hard to access gear in the back because of no walking path between the middle row captains? check. No real offroad chops? check. We would have been so much happier in an actual minivan on that trip.

      Either give me an SUV or give me a minivan. When you compromise your minivan to look and feel like an SUV, it does a bad job at being a minivan. When you compromise an SUV to ride more like a minivan, it loses the capability that makes an SUV attractive.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        CUVs are a compromise, but a calculated one designed to appeal to as many people as possible. That means that yes, they aren’t as good for towing or hardcore offroading as traditional SUVs, and they aren’t as spacious as minivans, but a lot of people are willing to trade some of those benefits for something that handles everything fairly well. Another poster made the comment recently that CUVs usually aren’t best in any single category, but they are often the 2nd best option across the board, and that versatility is attractive.

        A lot of the soft roaders are fairly capable ‘off road’ as many people will ever take them – you can jump curbs, handle gravel and dirt roads, go through the mud and grass, and clear higher levels of snow or water than you can in a car or minivan. During the rainy season it’s not uncommon for roads in my area to be covered by 6″ or more of standing water during heavy downpours. Driving a sedan I have to be very careful about how I cross those, while I see drivers in CUVs able to plow right through.

        When it comes to interior space by ditching the RWD and BOF layout CUVs are able to have much lower interior floors to give a lot more legroom for 2nd and 3rd row passengers than traditional SUVs, though perhaps not as much as minivans. I don’t notice a huge difference in the amount of space I have in the 2nd row of a new Explorer compared to a Town and Country. I wouldn’t want to ride in the third row of either for anything more than a quick trip around town. Minivans do excel at somehow having a ton of cargo space with all three rows of seats in place, but how many people need to pack for a week and still use all three rows? The ones that do, are probably the ones buying minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        Bingo. That’s why for the past nine years, we had both. A minivan for what they do well, and an suv for what it did well.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      Nullo

      I find the open, airy feel of the mini-van to be a major asset. I am 6’4″ 240. I love the way my 2004 Sienna lets me spread out. The dash mounted shifter means my right leg doesnt bang against a console. The height of the roof means I dont have to duck my head to see stoplights, nor to get out of the car.

      In contrast, I drove a 2011 Taurus this week. Felt like a jail, like I was driving with a baseball hat pulled down to low. Such a massive car, so little space. My 2011 Accord feesl so much more open.

      Different strokes, I guees.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      Agree that it’s different strokes, on the interior layout. I could see getting used to the open, airy feel, but I like Nullo prefer to be more cozy. I also despise the dash-mounted shifters ala Honda. Although, Nullo, the Focus and Escape shifters are creeping ever so slightly up the dash, aren’t they?

  • avatar
    MattPete

    I don’t care if people think a minivan is cool or not. I’ve found that throughout my life I’m usually way ahead of the fashion trend and most people are dorks.

    Two true stories. Story #1: last week I drove a 2012 Chrysler Town and Country. My daily driver is a 2003 BMW 325i w/ sport package. A few weeks ago I spent 2 days with my father’s 2008 BMW 530i, and I regularly borrow my wife’s Mazda5.

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind replacing my BMW with the T&C. It’s that good. I actually thought the T&C drove better (less wallow) than my father’s 530i. The T&C was quieter and rode better than my wife’s Mazda5. On a side note, I was underwhelmed by the 2012 Honda Odyssey.

    Story #2: 4 years ago we decided to replace my wife’s Civic with ‘something with some decent room’. We test drove wagons, CUVs, SUVs, and a Mazda5. The Mazda5′s minivan design decimated the competition as far as interior volume goes. It was also the best handling ride we tested. As for looks, I prefer the 5′s swooping zoominess over faux machismo of SUVs and CUVs. And let’s be honest: there is nothing dorkier than a Toyota RAV4.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I find it pretty humorous that my mom’s “dorky” V6 Rav4 has almost 100 more hp than your 325i (w/ sport package!!!) At 3700lbs for the 4WD, V6 limited, it will scoot.

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        Yeah, but my 325 will run circles around your mom’s dorkmobile. Power:weight, + inline vs. V6, + manual vs slushbox. Nevermind low center-of-gravity vs. inverse-pendulum.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        Until it snows anyway…Different cars/different applications/different audiences. A lot of people would say that the bottom of the range vehicle with the weakest engine offered in a luxury manufacturer’s lineup is pretty dorky too, even/especially with the sport package. But it does not matter what others think, it only matters if you are happy with it.
        By the way, How does your car’s being an inline 6 vs a Rav 4′s V6 make any difference?

        The power to weight ratio of the Rav4 V6 is a lot better than the 325i’s…(about 20% better I believe)
        2011 Rav4: 269hp, 3700lbs
        2003 325i: 184hp, 3200lbs

        Quentin’s Mom will probably spank your car off the line. You might catch up after the first corner but won’t pass her on the next straight. Don’t wave your pink slip…

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I’ve driven vehicles equipped with Jeep’s 4.0 I6, GM’s Atlas I6, and several BMW I6s, and they do have a different feel than a V6. The I6 just feels smoother.

      • 0 avatar
        Aqua225

        Exactly, that RAV4 will shutdown the 325 like a old car, which it is ;)

        An inline 6 doesn’t make a car faster. It’s not even more balanced than a well designed 60 degree V6. It does look cooler, but that isn’t what makes the numbers at the track.

        My take on BMW is this: if you bought less than the top engine for the specific model series 1, 3, 7, etc., then you aren’t buying for performance, you are buying for status. That is all. If you wanted the performance, you’d belly up to the bar for the horsepower, not the gas mileage. If you can buy a BMW, you shouldn’t be complaining about care and feeding of the hot versions.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Spy Tweets

        @aqua: … You DO realize that performance is more than just horsepower, right? Regarding the 328i vs 335i, exactly how does the difference between a 0-60 of 6 seconds vs 4.5 seconds affect any real life road situation in a practical manner? Arguably the 28 is predisposed to better handling due to a lighter engine up top.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      Gotta agree with you on how the refreshed Chrysler vans drive. A few months ago I had a new Grand Caravan Crew as a rental and I was impressed at how buttoned-down and solid the vehicle felt. Steering feel was very good. The prior week I had a 2011 VW Jetta as a rental and the Grand Caravan blew it away in terms of handling. Quite surprising as I was prepared to hate the van. But my oh my was that thing HUGE. Definitely needed the back-up camera in that thing.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    Mazda5
    $17,500 buys a decent-driving 6-speed manual with 29 real-world MPG that seats 4 compfortably with great cargo space, or 6 in a pinch. What can anyone buy with a better combination of driveability, economy, versatility, comfort?

    It is possible to raise children without flip-down DVD players and lord knows what else is in a $35K Sienna or Odyssey.

    CUVs? More money, lower MPG, less seating / cargo, no sliding doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      I think the 5 can work for a two-kid family. But you can’t have any more than that, unless you’re planning on taking a cargo trailer or a roof rack on every trip to the grocery store.

      I had one as a rental once, and–I’ll give you this–it does drive very nicely.

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        Coley: that’s why we are looking at trading in our 5 for something larger (1 kid now, 2 more due soon).

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        We have 3 kids, and both the Sienna and Mazda5 – the Mazda5 will do in a pinch and has done the occasional road drip. But for week-long trips and Costco runs, it’s the Sienna.

        We get 18mpg with Sienna, 22mpg with Mazda5 (auto/4), primarily stop and go traffic. There was a $9K price difference between the two.

  • avatar
    Coley

    What you were supposed to learn by 10th grade is that someone who is truly cool is the one who is least concerned about conforming to a certain criteria of what defines cool.

    If you’re worried about cool, go ahead and drive your Pilots and Highlanders and Yukons because you’re afraid that a minivan doesn’t suit your image (assuming you don’t have a need for considerable towing capacity.)

    I’ve got my third kid on the way, and nothing to prove to anyone. I couldn’t possibly be happier with a car purchase than we are with the new Odyssey. My old TSX is still fun to drive to work, but, having just returned from a thousand-mile-roundtrip family vacation in the van, there’s nothing quite like it.

    For sheer comfort and capacity, we’ve got 4.5 people in soft, leather capatains’ chairs watching DVD’s, four large suitcases, duffle bags of toys and equipment, bike helmets, a pump, a Bob DOUBLE jogging stroller, a portable potty (you’ve seen some of those rest-stop bathrooms), a single stroller, the wife’s enormous full-body pillow, a couple of coolers, and God knows what else. On the back: a hitch-mounted Thule bike rack with three bikes and a Burley trailer.

    All this with in quiet comfort on a unibody ride at 25 mpg. Nothing beats that.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      And if you need to take your Aunt Edna to Flagstaff, she won’t need to be on the roof of the old Family Truckster…I hear you, we have the same situation here. With three kids we could not be happier. And yes, a year ago with a blizzard on the way and an impending trip from Colorado to Orange County, CA, we rented a spanking new Suburban. Yes it was perhaps a bit better in the snow, but our oldest repeatedly vaulting over the second row into the third row left muddy shoeprints on Hertz’s headliner and there still did not seem to be as much room inside the vehicle as in our Odyssey. That rear load floor is fairly high. Once we got to the in-laws and drove all 7 of us to Disneyland it was a LOT less comfortable that it would have been in the van. Gas mileage averaged 17 vs. the 22 we normally see in the Ody. Nice rig and all, but not a great replacement for the van, no matter what the Prada-moms in the ‘hood like to tell us. As for a 3-row CUV, forget it unless you never carry anything with you…

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      What you were supposed to learn by 10th grade is that someone who is truly cool is the one who is least concerned about conforming to a certain criteria of what defines cool.

      More people in the US need to take this advice to heart.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        I’ve got my third kid on the way, and nothing to prove to anyone.
        Obviously.

        You are describing a mini-Greyhound bus that sets one back over $30,000. Excuse the rest of us for not getting excited by that.
        Leather captain’s chairs for any family vehicle is as silly as suede disposable diapers.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    The Mazda 5 seems to be a very good vehicle and bargain priced and quite well equipped if thats the size van you want. The gas mileage 21–28 is not what it should be but the Ode. is about $9000 more. That buys a lot of gas.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      I don’t think it is wise to put your child only a foot away from the front bumper of the larger vehicle behind you. There is no crash zone in these cars when they are rear ended. Your little ones get hit about as hard as if you put them out in a crosswalk in only their car seats.

      Nothing smaller should be used by parents here in the US than a compact car with a substantial trunk or hatch. That third seat in the 5 is a death trap.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Cheap and uncool. Yep, that’s me. Probably explains the Caravan parked out front right now. Older ones make great knockaround vehicles.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    They are comfortable cruisers for sure, but living in and accessing the Rockies quite often I’d rather have a SUV, not CUV. Or a 4-door 6-seat pickup. I feel like that is a great reason for having such an option, not because of a lack of genitalia or some city slicker’s judgement. Regardless, our Outback handles what we need quite well for the 4 of us, including 2 track trails in snow.

  • avatar
    Coley

    MattPete,

    Wow congrats on the impending additions. Yep, you’ll want something a little bigger. You’re going to need all the help you can get! :)

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      I prefer the T&C over the Odyssey (the Odyssey was a huge let-down, whereas the T&C was very impressive*). My wife has it drilled into her skull that we need 3-across, despite the fact that I can’t fathom how a 3-year-old will be able to crawl across to the middle carseat over the outboard infant carriers). I think that, whatever we get, it should be 2 in one row and one in another. I’m resigned to the fact that we are going to get an Odyssey, even though I think it kinda sucks (e.g. drivers like a Buick; the interior looks like a Civic done up in leather). The T&C owns the Odyssey for interior and driving dynamics.

      P.S. If you read Baruth’s* articles on the 2011/2012 T&C/Dodge Caravan, they are spot-on about how well they drive.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        I drove a new T+C as well for a week a few months ago and was happy to come back to our 2006 Odyssey. Our Odyssey was quieter, smoother and felt faster. Was it really? No idea, but perception is reality. I liked the black carpet in the T+C, and that was about it. I tried the Eco button for 5 minutes and didn’t see the point over the variable displacement in our Odyssey (which seems to work, we get much better mileage in our ’06 Ody than we did in our ‘Sienna.) The Odyssey and/or the Sienna is plenty fast and with 3 kids in the car, you probably shouldn’t be hooning it up anyway. And if they are not, drive your other car.

        You will like the Odyssey much better in about 5 years or whenever it comes time to trade it in or sell it. It will retain significantly more value than the Chrysler if history is anything to go by.

        3 across is useless as you then have no good way to access the backseat especially if the kid-carriers are semi-permanently locked in place. It totally defeats the point of the van in the first place. If your 3-year-old is in a booster, she/he will learn how to do the seatbelt themselves very quickly and then he/she will have the back row to themselves. That’s how our oldest has it and she loves it. Anytime we have the situation where the 3 of them are side-by-side we realize how great the minivan is and that the SEPARATION aspect is the key thing there.

        People seem to like the VW’s (are they still available?) It’s a Chrysler in German drag, your wife might like it better.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Three across is more versatile if you don’t have two kids in car seats at the same time. In any vehicle I’ve ever seen with a 2nd row bench it’s easy to flip up one side for access to the third row without having to climb over the seat.

      • 0 avatar
        Coley

        MattPete – I actually agree with your wife, but I’m biased toward Hondas anyway (I’ve had very good luck with them for long-term reliability, and when they have had problems, I’ve somehow been able to convince corporate Honda to cover the out-of-warranty repairs.)

        Anyway, I think the potential for three across the second row is HUGE. Your three-year old will absolutely learn how to buckle the straps soon enough. Until that time, put him/her in the middle seat, as suggested and slide that middle seat forward so that you can access and buckle/unbuckle it from the driver’s seat.

        In either case, this will be easier than doing the buckling in the third row. The big advantage, of course, to the three-across-the-second-row option will be the uninterrupted cavern of cargo space you’ll have with the entire third row folded. I mean, for the next two years, you’ll be traveling with two pack-n-plays, a double stroller …

        I agree that the Odyssey’s steering is a little over-assisted. I guess, in light of everything else, I just don’t care.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Yesterday I convinced my co-worker that with elderly parents, #1 on the way, and two big dog crates it was time to put the Pilot dream away and to seriously consider an Odyssey or Sienna. Which she did and bought.

    As I told my brother when he was on the bubble between a Durango or GC – understand we only get these brief 15 or so years to wear the badge of hands-on parenthood….why wouldn’t you buy the far more useful vehicle?

    I do wish there was something size-wise in between the Mazda5 and Odyssey…similar to the old Quest or MPV….I’m also a huge fan of the original Odyssey.

    I think Volkswagen completely blew it 3-4 years ago by not bringing to market the Microbus tease concept. It looked mid-size, and yet modern enough to where it wasn’t a retro nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I have a soft spot for the Mazda MPV. I like the old ones for the quirky SUV ride height and big 4wd stickers on the lower rocker panels, and the later ones for being one of the few minivans I’ve ever thought of as attractive (the current Nissan Quest is pretty nice there too).

      I can’t imagine why VW never released a new Microbus. It would have been a hit with both young families looking for something with a bit of style as well as the nostalgia-hungry boomer market.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        My family owns a 1998 MPV Allsport 4wd ES with all the bells and whistles, we bought it for $19k in 2001 with 33k miles. We also own a 1989 MPV, 2wd with the somewhat rare 2.6 I4, we bought that back in 1996.

        The biggest plus of these cars (and perhaps biggest minus?) is their truck like construction: solid rear axle rwd and longitudinally mounted engine. Makes maintenance and repair a snap, and perhaps is the key to transmission and brake longevity (rather than using midsize sedan hardware). On the other hand, fuel economy is more like an SUV than the current crop of minivans.

        Both vans have been used to haul a small sailboat, cement, firewood, you name it.

        The 1998 has a towing package. With the auto leveling shocks, I’ve hauled 5 people, 5 30 racks of beer, camping equipment, and a canoe (all at the same time for a camping trip), and the car didn’t complain, and got 18mpg. Haven’t done much severe offroading in it, it’s mainly a people hauler after all, but there’s a solid 8 inches of ground clearance, and not many vulnerable components that are exposed, the gas tank is protected by a sheet of steel.

    • 0 avatar
      SteveMar

      We bought an ’06 MPV (the last year of production) because of the exact reason you identify — attractive enough, big enough and in-between the Mazda5 and the other bigger minivans. In reality, there really isn’t a single minivan left that is of the size of the original models introduced 25 years ago. Everything shifted from Caravan-sized to Grand Caravan-sized as if nothing would be lost in translation.

      I also agree with the idea of buying the vehicle that fits your stage of life. When we had our first child, we bought a ’00 Passat wagon and it was perfect. Enough room for baby stuff and anything else we needed, still fun to drive. After kid #2, the Passat was getting too crowded — we tried a cargo box, etc., but it was basic access and space. Then came the friends of my kids who we drove around. It was time to get a vehicle that fit our lives. Plain and simple.

      There will be a day when we say goodbye to our van. If I have my way, that day won’t happen for another bunch of years. When that day comes, I will be what fits my life then. I also have a second car as a daily driver that is for what I need, regardless of kids. One vehicle doesn’t have to hold it all. And the stage of parental schlepping will end. To my mind, nothing handles these obligations as well as the vehicle we have right now.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I have nothing against minvans but personally, I don’t think they are as safe as our XC90. Here in Central Texas, when it rains the roads get really slick. About a month ago, a minvan driver was killed when a Tahoe broke loose and crossed the line. It’s only one example but these are the things that sway my decisions. Second, every other house in my neighborhood has an Odyssey and I really don’t want to be a clone. I think they hand them out when you sign your mortgage or something.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      That’s a poor example since do you know all that was involved with this accident? Why did the Tahoe break loose in the first place? Do you know if the Minivan Driver was even belted or other factors that may have played a role in the accident?

      I don’t think Minivans are inherently any less safe than an SUV, perhaps even MORE safe if a relatively late model vehicle.

      Also, how fast was either vehicle going? This is a fallacy argument when it comes to small cars too, just because one person was killed does not make a car unsafe, there are LOTS of factors involved that would end up with someone dead, no matter the car.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        I agree, I said it was only one example but I feel better with my family in a Volvo. Details were sketchy I can only guess that the Tahoe was either going too fast around a curve, had balding tires, bad brakes or a combination of all of the above.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Nullo, I bought my wife a ’07 Mazda5 at the end of ’06(Employee pricing deal) and she LOVES it. This is after 10 years of owning 1st a ’89 Mazda MPV, and then a ’92 MPV which I took over as my daily driver.
    The 5 handles great(for what it is and does) and the mileage, 25 city, 30+ highway)is 8+ mpg better than the MPV.
    Contrary to what is written, the 5 is not slow, not thirsty, and has excellent driving dynamics. It’s not a Mazdaspeed3, it’s a microvan.
    And has been mentioned previously, the sliding doors seal the deal.
    I make a point of talking to the Mazda5 customers whose vehicles I service, and every single one of them absolutely LOVES their 5.
    By comparison my ’92 MPV is slow, ill handling and braking, and thirsty. Primitive ABS, no airbags, RWD, 4-speed auto trans. But it is no less than it ever was. The key thing is “by comparison” to what is available today compared to the minivans of yesterday. I took out the 2nd and 3rd row seats, and it’s a fine cargo van.

  • avatar
    thehips

    Why not bridge the two together? A 4wd minivan with ground clearance or as I call it the ultimate wet dream also known as the Mitsubishi Delica. This would be an instant purchase for me if they ever sold them here in Canada.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Mitsubishi_Delica_D5_001.jpg
    or the old school version
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/P5270011_Mitsubishi_Delica_Super_Exceed_%28RLH%29.JPG

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    I’ll bet that 400+ hp mini-van will make many doubters change their minds.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I think what’s strange that they make this into a Chrysler concept. Given that they don’t want the same minivan sold as two brands anymore, and they have selected the Town & Country to survive, it would make sense for Dodge to get this vehicle instead. Dodge fielding a smaller, more sporty, more driver-oriented minivan as a replacement for the Caravan would complement the Town & Country nicely yet not competing directly against it.

  • avatar
    Car Spy Tweets

    They’ll bounce back when they start offering them in different sizes. They have small, midsize and large SUVs, sedans and crossovers, right? The OdysseyiennaquestT&Caravan is the van equivalent of the Toyota Avalon or Ford Expedition EL. Unnecessary for most. More small and midsize vans are needed besides cargo vans in drag (transit connect), and unadvertised small vans with bad fuel mileage (mazda5). The Prius V is a start, if it even counts, and considering it’s selling pretty damn well it’s proof that the segment can make sales in America.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    If a Suburban and a Mazda 5 were to take turns ramming into each other’s sides at about 40mph and you had to place your children in one which one would it be?
    If you had to haul a load of gravel for a couple hundred miles would you rather do it in your top end Sienna or your F-150 Platinum?
    If you’re into speed would you rather be racing stop light to stop light in the fastest minivan or the fastest sedan?

    Now you know why minivans will never surge. You can park your diesel powered station wagon beneath your ivory tower, climb up, take your anger out on a keyboard for awhile, and then point down at the ‘unenlightened’ like the Evil Monkey from Family Guy AND IT WON’T CHANGE A THING. MWAHAHAHA!

    p.s.- Compact cars don’t stand a chance either. Ha, haaaaaa!

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    So to answer the initial question – no.

    In an era of Kardashian weddings and $1000 iPhone cases, we are all about status and in that regard the minivan, and its two-box brother from another mother the station wagon, are hopelessly dead.

    I think manufacturers could make them more appealing to hit higher sales numbers (where’s the hybrid Sienna with wifi) but at the end of the day they will never have the sales volume of equivalent SUVs.

    Andre Agassi told us two decades ago that “Image is everything.” He was right, even when it comes to minivans.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Okay, this thread is dead but I’ll comment anyway.

    25 years ago we needed a minivan but couldn’t afford one. Family of four with my mom living with us. Our K-Car didn’t have A/C, so we stuffed ourselves into mom’s 1979 Concord. We survived and even thrived.

    In my opinion, the original minivans were truly mini and among the most practical vehicles ever made.

    Now? Vans are as large as the full-size plumber’s models. They don’t make any sense to me at all. As large as “mini” vans are now, I think they have less practical room. Why do they have to have more cupholders than seats? Why all the humps and bumps robbing interior room?

    I shudder at the prospect of replacing my Impala, arguably one of the most practical sedans right now as to interior room and general usefulness. Yeah, I do feel that way.

    When Chrysler’s minivans ceased being mini with the introduction of the jellybean models, I said “no thanks”.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      The Mazda5 is slightly narrower than the 1st gen K-car based van, it’s much less boxy in the rear and doesn’t let you remove the rear bench. How well does this “right-sized” van sell in the US? 20K/year. The prior-gen was over 40% fleet at one point, and thanks to safety features it also weighs 500lbs more than the K-van, about 800lbs less than a full-sizer.

      Other small minivans are dead: Mazda MPV (morphed into the CX-9), short-wheelbase Chrysler & Kia vans. Ford’s [Grand] C-Max was stillborn stateside. Few people want them and CUV’s likely more profitable. IIRC, the bigger vans sell about 100K/year each, with lots of fleet sales as well.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    They never really went away. Their sliding doors morphed into regular doors and now they’re called CUVs. (for the image conscious)

  • avatar
    zamoti

    I never wanted an SUV/CUV. My wife and I drove Volvo wagons for years; however when we had our third child we came to find that three child seats typically don’t fit across the back seat. Our choices for a three row car were minivan and SUV/CUV. As we’re not the richest people around, we limited our search to used cars. What quickly came apparent was that a used minivan is the functional equivalent to a used mattress. They were all filthy and beat up. Food stained cloth seats, nasty floors, all those storage compartments had a layer of sticky gunk in them if they weren’t broken. Most had low levels of equipment, cheap radio, cloth seats, etc. To top it all off, they commanded a price premium that was inversely proportional to their level of cleanliness/equipment.
    We ended up purchasing a Mazda CX9 GT because it had an excellent equipment level (leather, HID, factory remote start, navi, etc) and was in fantastic condition. There were several available for sale all with desirable equipment and CLEAN! Also, nearly every minivan we looked at had a multitude of DVD/LCD equipment despite having nearly no other equipment. I feel that as a parent I am subjected to quite enough children’s television and deserve one place where I can escape from it. As such I don’t want a DVD player in my car. The kids seem to do just fine without it.
    So minivan is more useful and commodious? No argument there, but buying one on the used market was not a fruitful experience.
    BTW, I did manage to stuff a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet piano into the back of the Mazda AND shut the door entirely. So a CUV won’t haul plywood inside but it ain’t small. Also, if I want to haul plywood, I just put it on the roof rack like I used to with my old Volvo. Who the hell buys that much plywood anyway? From the comments here, you think people were eating the stuff.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I think there will be a moderate resurgence in minivans when someone comes out with a hybrid that gets 30mpg city and 30mpg highway, a 30/30 minivan. The cost of the hybrid will keep it from being a huge seller. Besides the economy and crossovers, one reason that minivan sales haven’t really rebounded is that the reliability of minivans made in the past 10 years is quite high. People don’t trade in old minivans on fashion whims.

    When my 2 kids were in elementary school, having a minivan was a near-necessity. Often we were not just carrying our kids but neighbor kids as well, and kids under 12 aren’t supposed to ride in the front seat these days. Now that my kids are teens, I don’t use the third row as much, and I’m thinking about getting rid of the minivan, but it comes in handy just frequently enough to keep.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    I would concur that the Mazda5 works best for a family of 4. When we were raising our 3 kids, it would not have been enough; where our Voyager, then Windstar and then Odyssey all served us very well.

    I was so used to the versatility of minivans I bought the Mazda5 as my commuter even though I’m now an empty nester. With a stick and my easy 30 mile commute through the country, I’m routinely getting 28 MPG and as the car breaks in, I’m inching up towards 29.

    Beginning 20+ years ago with the emergence of the Explorer and Blazer, I always viewed it as either:
    a) look cool, pay more, suffer inconvenience or
    b) look dorky, pay less, enjoy greater convenience.

    While 80% of consumers chose a, I’ve always been just fine with b.

    And finally, is there really anything that looks stupider than a 120 pound woman sitting 6 feet high alone in an Escalade, Navigator or some similar beast? THAT is very far from cool.

  • avatar
    NN

    As a 31 year old with a wife, two young kids, more probably on the way in the next couple years, and a 90lb lab, I care nothing for perceived status and would love to have a minivan as my next car to replace my 2004 Mountaineer and it’s 16mpg. We recently went to the auto show. I sat in the Mazda 5, the sticker at $20k was right, but I do think it needs to be a little bit bigger…even if that affects the price a bit. I’m 6’3″ and the driver seat just doesn’t go back very far…this is a car made for people 5’10″ and smaller. I then looked at a loaded Toyota Sienna, which was huge…I don’t need something that big, and at $47k loaded, I sure as hell can’t afford it. I think there is room for a decently sized, well styled, minimally optioned (read: practical) minivan. Seems like no one other than Mazda is willing to offer such a product with sliding doors, however.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      Commenters in these discussions are far too eager to rant about the top-of-the-line sticker price on the fully loaded Sienna (or Odyssey) with every feature checked off.

      You’d be well served by a $27k (approximately) Sienna LE.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      I completely agree with NN, all the praise for the Mazda5 must be from shorter people. My wife and I are both over 6′ tall. We have 2 kids, one in a forward-facing car seat and one in a reverse-facing seat. We installed both carseats in the Mazda5 when we test-drove one. Too small! We wound-up buying a CPO 2006 Honda CR-V with the 5-speed stick. We’ve been generally happy with it so far.

      I chuckled at the comments proposing to drop the “mini” from minivan. I used to drive a REAL van, a 1984 Chevy 3/4 ton van. Fullsize vans are still larger than minivans, are larger inside than a large SUV and can tow like a fullsize truck-based SUV. Minivans may be getting larger of late, but they’re still minivans to me.

    • 0 avatar
      MRL325i

      IMO, that is where being unfashionable is good for the pocketbook. A 2 or 3 year old fully loaded T&C with low miles can be had for substantially under $20k these days. Depreciation is a friend to the patient. Plus, I get 27mpg with it fully loaded, with a Thule box on top, on the highway. I am 6’3″ and appreciate the room, too. If you are worried about repair costs, Chrysler bumper to bumper warranties — not third-party — are available online for under $2k.

    • 0 avatar
      MRL325i

      IMO, that is where being unfashionable is good for the pocketbook. A 2 or 3 year old fully loaded T&C with low miles can be had for substantially under $20k these days. Depreciation is a friend to the patient. Plus, I get 27mpg with it fully loaded, with a Thule box on top, on the highway. I am 6’3″ and appreciate the room, too. If you are worried about repair costs, Chrysler bumper to bumper warranties — not third-party — are available online for under $2k.

  • avatar
    Tessai

    Recently purchased a Mazda5 for my family of 5 and couldn’t be happier with the car itself. I’ve found the best configuration for cargo and passenger loads is to keep the rearmost seats folded when not in use (most weekdays). When the whole family does go somewhere together, we fold up one of the rear seats for that child and load him in through the rear hatch. All of my children are still in car seats so leg room isn’t a factor.

    The biggest factor for me for minivans vs an SUV/CUV? Sliding rear doors. It is so much easier to load and unload the munchkins without keeping one eye on a swinging door and trying to prevent it from bumping the car next to me in the parking lot.

    I’ve also never felt it to be slow when driving, either. It feels like any other 2.3L Mazda3. Parking it next to my sister’s 2011 Mazda3 and the cars are nearly the same length, I’ve just got a bit more height and no slope to the roofline in my favor for space. In my test driving, if you really want speed the Kia Sedona was surprising in how quick it was. Much quicker than an Odyssey. But then again this is a minivan, not a sports car. I have no issues in the Mazda5 with passing or accelerating to highway speeds, and my local speed limit is 70mph.

    The saddest thing I found while researching for this purchase was just how few vehicles are available with a 3rd row that are priced for a family to afford.

    Also I’m averaging 24mpg in mostly suburban driving with some highway. The same routes landed me a whole 27mpg in a 2011 Kia Rio. So, yeah, I’ll take the extra space and power the 5 offers for a 3mpg hit.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      I recently found the perfect compromise. The price of a Mazda5 and the size/utility of an Odyssey: The Kia Sedona.

      We are a few years from being empty nesters, with 3 kids in high school and college. The Sedona is the oldest minivan design out there right now, and is priced fairly aggressively. Also, all of the ratings I can find (CU and TrueDelta) seem to indicate a better record than Chrysler (and even Honda) for repair frequency. Throw in a really good warranty, and we bought one.

      Overall, I really like it. I don’t like it as well as my 99 Town & Country (which I considered the virtually perfect minivan) but it is MUCH more powerful. Considering the value it is, I am perfectly happy to make the tradeoffs. But then, I always did want to buy cars by the pount.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    We Americans are allergic to cars that make sense. Small family car that hauls crap: wagon. Large family car that hauls crap: minivan.

    Instead, like the idiots we are, we try to stuff families of five into sedans with no cargo space (the sedan is the most useless car body style in existence second only to the coupe) and when that doesn’t work we then create dozens of excuses about why we “need” a crossover/CUV.

    “The Camcord just doesn’t hold the kids, their friends, and our active liefstyle mountain bikes!”

    Instead of getting a proper boxy roomy wagon or minivan, people flock to idiotic CUVs/crossovers which are either bad handling tall wagons with bad fuel economy or minivans with the sliding doors replaced with traditional car doors and laghable comparable interior space.

    BUT THEY HAVE FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!

    Until we get over ourselves that cars should offer practicality over all else and stop caring about being seen in an “uncool car,” (you’re a 40 year old overweight parent with a crap job, you haven’t been cool in decades, or EVER) then we’ll never see the endless sidestepping of the American car market around the issue that we all really are best served driving a wagon or minivan.

  • avatar

    My word, how much utility do all of you minivan apologists need? Are you guys all hauling plywood, 4 kids, and doing yoga poses at the exact same time? I mean to each their own, but I see no need for minivans when less than 3 kids are in the equation.

    I’ve stuffed 3 adults, one baby in a rear-facing seat, one baby stroller, three large suitcases, two small suitcases, and more junk on top of that, all into a 2009 Honda Civic Coupe, with space to move for all involved. Now, I’m not saying that anyone who doesn’t do this is wrong, nor even that I would ever do it again given the choice (this was my brother in law’s car), but one, you’d be surprised how much in the way of people and stuff some small cars can swallow up, and two, it made me realize that my 2006 Ford Explorer is much more space than I really need for one kid, or even for two kids.

    Yes, all you vanophiles, I do get lousy gas mileage, but my commute is short, my other drives are not long enough to really dent my wallet, and I just plain don’t like the style of minivans. It isn’t about impressing anyone – I just like the exterior and interior design of my Explorer better, and the smaller size compared to a minivan.

    That said, the Explorer will still be on the trading block (due to fuel economy) by the time we get to a new base and start trying for kid #2. Big on the list to hunt for is a last-gen Taurus (AKA: Ford Five Hundred in drag) or a midsize sedan, or a hatchback (Prius, Matrix, VW Golf). Crossovers such as the Rav4, Escape and CR-V will also be on the short list (in interest of fuel economy).

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Seriously? Almost 140 comments from a story about minivans. Who knew such a bland vehicle style could inspire such passion .


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