Minivans are indeed fewer in number.
Supposedly they should to able to hold six or seven.
But the truth is the buyers of these vehicles rarely have room for three these days.
See, I have dealt with hundreds of minivan buyers over the years as a small town car dealer and a writer here at TTAC. Nearly everyone I deal with considers no more than three minivans. To be frank, the majority won’t even consider two which is why Chrysler, Toyota and Honda minivans now control more than 88% of the North American minivan market.
What chance does the Nissan Quest have? Even after 20 years in the public eye?
Jacque Hedonist: Minivan designs have always struck me as different forms of breadboxes. Honda Odysseys and Mazda 5′s have nice little waves in their side profiles. While the Chrysler minivans and Kia Sedonas are the traditional upright breadboxes.
The Quest is a combination of the two. The front fascia is upright and traditional with plenty of chrome staring right back at you as you get ready for parenting duties. However the entire side is one curvaceous swoop with a flattish roof that seems to compress and slim down the portly proportions of a minivan.
Stefan Frugalist: Looks always take a back seat to function when it comes to minivans. A seven passenger people mover like the Quest is no exception. However today’s minivan buyers will be in for a pleasant surprise if they decide to ever consider a top of the line LE model.
The inside is just plain opulent.
The leather seats are thick and supremely comfortable in all three rows. The materials used are top notch; especially compared to the cost contained plastics that are widely used by the competition. If you are willing to look beyond the names, you’ll find that the Quest in LE trim offers the most comfortable interior in the entire segment.
Hedonist: The luxury focus continues with dashboard features that seem to come straight out of a fully loaded Infiniti. You name the convenience, it’s there for your enjoyment. A Bose 13 speaker stereo system with exceptional sound quality. An 11 inch big screen for the second and third rows with headphones that offer the blissful quiet that rarely will come with rambunctious tikes. Dual sunroofs. Push button conveniences for nearly everything that needs to be folded or closed. Even the 8 inch front screen offers front seat video pleasures when the vehicle is parked.
The Nissan Quest LE provides all of the comfort, safety and entertainment of a high end SUV, like an Infiniti QX56, for nearly half the price.
Minivan sales may have flagged over the last twelve years. But the value quotient is still as strong as ever if you compare them to similar sized SUV’s.
Frugalist: That value quotient to me depends entirely on the market segments you’re willing to consider. If you want space, plenty of power (260 hp. and 240 lb. of torque), smooth shifts with the CVT, and pure luxury for the family, then the Nissan Quest may be a good buy.
That is if all that mass is required for your commuting and travels.
But let us throw two nasty monkey wrenches into that equation.
Hedonist: The first is need. No, the two of us are not pondering the usual need vs. want equation. This Quest is far more competitive than most consumers will ever realize.
The issue I see is priorities. If you have three kids or fewer, a Toyota Prius V may represent a better alternative. The Quest only averaged 21 mpg with a fuel economy rating of 18 city and 24 highway.
The Prius V, rated at 44 city and 40 highway, averaged 49 mpg for us in mostly city driving. It essentially doubled the Quest in fuel economy while offering a surprisingly large seating space for three in the middle and plenty of room in the back. I showed both of the models to all of my wife’s friends. Even the ones who have already purchased minivans (who were the majority), said they would have opted for the Prius V had it been available at the time.
Frugalist: We don’t necessarily think that hybrid wagons will do to minivans, what minivans did to the Prius V’s large and bulbous ancestors. But SUV’s and CUV’s have already taken a huge chunk out of the minivan market over the past decade.
There may be a minor period of market adjustment. Still, we can easily see many potential buyers of minivans who have memories of being shepherded around in vans and larger SUV’s, moving even further into the world of hybrids and wagons as the ‘family vehicle’; especially if buyers can save $10,000 in the purchase price and another $10,000 in operating costs.
Hedonist: The second issue for us is the purchase price. At $43,000, a loaded LE model represents a heavy duty debt load. This is also true for the higher end models of the competition, and Nissan is offering substantial rebates, incentives and financing at this point. As we mentioned before, if you’re looking for a minivan, and especially if you haul six or seven people, the Quest is definitely worth your consideration.
However, the overall value equation of a minivan is simply not there anymore if you have three or fewer kids and don’t haul huge masses of items on a frequent basis. Wagons, lower end CUV’s and compact SUV’s can all be had, well equipped, at $35,000 or less.
Frugalist: There is a reason why vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are outselling all their minivan brethren. If you add all the models mentioned and couple the Equinox with its GMC Terrain sibling, you’ll find that not even the once 500,000+ strong Chrysler minivans can match the modern day sales numbers of any of these models.
As for the 2012 Nissan Quest, it has less than half the sales in the first six months of this year than the Prius V.
The Quest remains at or near the top of its class if you are looking at a minivan as a pure luxury vehicle.
The question is, “What will the consumer be looking for?” The times they are a-changin’ folks.
Note: Nissan provided gas, insurance and a full week of driving time.