By on August 9, 2013

quest

Mini-vans, God love them. Gone are the days when a van was mostly a truck with the front seats set far too close to the windshield and separated by a giant, ill-fitting plastic engine cover that allowed the sounds, smell and heat of the engine to leak into the vehicle’s interior. No, today’s vans are quiet, spacious and refined people movers that still provide a great deal of utility while carrying your precious family in great comfort. While they may not set the average auto enthusiast’s heart aflutter, ask any family man and he will sing you the song of infinite praises for the humble mini-van. I am just such a man, and as my Ford Freestar is on its way out, I must now find a replacement.

Shopping for cars is fun and I was looking forward to a great many test drives in my quest to replace the Gray Lady but it turns out that there really aren’t that many passenger vans for sale in the American market. Contrast this with my experience in Japan where the “one box” segment offers dozens of choices. I have no idea why this should be, but the amount of options available to the Japanese consumer is amazing and you can buy anything from a stripped out base model van that is virtually nothing more than a bare metal box with some seats bolted into the back to a fully optioned van so luxurious that the owner of a Toyota Century would blush at the sheer extravagance of the purchase. Nissan alone offers a choice of six different min-vans for the Japanese market, and just to clarify here I am talking about six different actual designs, not simply six different trim levels of the same van with different names hung on them.

Japanese market "Nissan Elgrand"

Japanese market “Nissan Elgrand”

Despite the fact that Americans are people who like to think we want the very best of everything, I was surprised to discover that we do not get always get the best looking Japanese vans and, because Nissan changed the front fascia of its top of the line Elgrand, I at first mistook the Quest for Nissan’s second tier JDM offering known as the “Serena.” I like the idea of owning an Elgrand and even looked at previous models on the used market when I lived in Japan so, regardless of what I think were unnecessary and unattractive changes to the front of the vehicle, I am happy I got the chance to check out its American cousin.

We don’t get the fully optioned versions of this van in the USA but even without all the extras the Quest can still be quite plush and, with the highest end LE model starting at $42,640, it turns out they can be quite expensive as well. Fortunately, the entry level “S” model, is a more modest $25,990 and is, at the very least, outfitted with the same 260 horsepower V6 backed and CVT transmission that is offered all across the range. The one I tested was the slightly up market “SV” that begins at $29,740 and it had the features my wife and I were looking for including a back-up camera, power sliding doors, alloy wheels and all the other basic bells and whistles most mini-vans come with these days.

My first thought upon seeing the van in person is that it is tall and looks somewhat ungainly. It is terribly slab-sided and the curving bodyline, set up high on the back but sagging rather limply as it runs towards the front of the vehicle, does little to break up the acres of flat, featureless steel. SL and higher models have better looking alloy wheels and a chrome trim piece that runs just above the rocker panels that helps to mitigate the blandness, but the almost four-thousand additional dollars required to step up to that level seems a bit much to me. Additionally, Nissan has failed to disguise the opening in the body that all minivans have to facilitate the sliding rear doors. The best looking vans usually set this opening just below the window glass where it blends in and doesn’t attract so much attention, but Nissan has opted to place it right in the middle of the panel where it resembles and ugly black scar across the rear quarter of the vehicle.

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Inside, the Quest SL was fairly unremarkable. Like most vehicles the instruments and controls were well laid out but I was a little surprised at just tall the dashboard felt to me. I remember riding in a 72 Mach 1 when I was a kid, sitting low in seats that had deep cut-outs and facing a massive, high dashboard. From my perspective, the windshield looked like a bright slit about four inches wide and there was no way I could see out the front. The Quest evoked this memory right away and I could imagine my wife, who is only about five feet tall, feeling the same way and being forced to crank the seat all the way to the top of its adjustment range in order to simply see out. Additionally, although I confess I may be nitpicking, I also found the side mirrors to be oddly shaped and positioned in such a way that, although they didn’t block my view, was distracting.

nissan-quest-hickory-nc_YPA-61375_T13009_7

To make matters worse, the Nissan I drove had two center consoles, one for the front and another for the second row. This means, in order to access the third row a passenger would need to flip up one of the second row seats and then climb in behind it – something I have not seen since I last drove a sporty, two door coupe. Because two of our three kids still require full car seats, we would be faced with the choice of either placing one of those seats in the third row, where we would have to get into the van to buckle and unbuckle the child at every stop, or with putting both car seats in the second row and forcing my oldest child to climb over the top of the console in order to go between the seats to his spot in the back. The whole thing was not very well thought out, in my opinion, and I didn’t even bother to ask if that console could be removed or deleted because, seriously, who the hell wants to do that when they are paying $30K for a vehicle?

2012_nissan_quest-pic-7428102225128499816

The Quest was a dead man walking in my mind before I even took it out on the street, and that’s a shame because out on the road I found the van to be quiet, comfortable and downright well mannered. The CVT, the first I have ever driven, was smooth and I was unable to find a single flaw with it. Nissan’s V6 was great in the big van and when I put my foot down, the road rushed forward to meet me every single time whether I was accelerating from a stop or rolling on the power at 50 mph. In a smaller, lighter vehicle, I can only imagine the real thrill that power train must offer.

To sum up, I came away impressed with the power and handling of the van but was turned off by the frumpy styling of all but the highest end models, the surprising lack of thought put into the interior design and by the high prices of all but basest of models. There seems to be a real hole in the market as far as the Japanese brands are concerned, for a well optioned, value priced minivan that offers the good looks and the stylistic extras of the highest end models but deletes all the touches of luxury that I, as a family man, can’t really conceive of using. There is no way I am dropping 42 large on a van just so I can get one that looks half-way decent.

I am not a bargain shopper, but neither am I a fool. In my life I have bought a grand total of four brand new cars and I tend to live with them for a long, long time. I know that our next new vehicle will become a part of my family and that it will travel with us wherever we go. Barring incidents and accidents, if we take good care of it there is a good chance that my six year old son may one day find himself behind the wheel. When it comes down to that kind of commitment, the Nissan Quest SV fails to make the grade and I, unwilling to drop the cash required to get into a higher trim level, will look elsewhere.

The much better looking, much higher priced Quest LE.

The much better looking, much higher priced Quest LE.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

*Note – this article was edited to correct inaccuracies pointed out by philadlj in the comments section. Thanks for the assist.

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83 Comments on “Test Drive: Nissan Quest SV...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I love your new Renault Espace!

    Joking aside, how dare you malign a Toyota Century owner! They are too unassuming to blush!

    More joking aside, I knew the JDM had many more van options, as well as wagons and cool looking everything-else. I pointed a new Quest (white one) out to my dad recently, and he said “It’s like an elephant… and Japanese.”

  • avatar
    SpacemanSpiff

    I’ve reached the point in my life where I daydream of owning a minivan… Particularly while I’m driving the family on a trip with no rear visibility because the cargo area of the Outback is packed to the ceiling! I’ll be following this series with interest!

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    If Toyota would bring back the ovoid Previa with its supercharger and all wheel drive I’d probably hit my bank up for a loan. Other than that I haven’t been too impressed with any minivan since the 2nd gen Odyssey. Does your purchase necessarily have to be new or will you consider a lovingly used pre-owned hooptie for your schlepping needs?

    • 0 avatar

      We’re getting geared up to go overseas next summer so I am going to spend what it takes to get us into something I can ship all over the globe for the next decade or so.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Having owned two of these (the second with the supercharged engine), I will add an “amen.” With DI and other tweaks, there’s no reason that 2.5 liter 4 couldn’t push out well over 250 hp, making the van full competent at today’s higher speeds.

  • avatar
    NN

    The 2014 Ford Transit Connect can’t come fast enough.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I fully agree with your assessment of the US van market and the lack of cool vans. I for one would love a Toyota HiAce!

    • 0 avatar

      I occasionally drove a late model Hi-Ace cargo van that my employer owned when I was in Japan a few years ago. It was the lowest end model and while I liked the utility and sheer size of the thing, I felt really exposed sitting out ahead of the front wheels.

      On the highway every bump and freeway expansion joint made that thing pitch up and down like a crab boat in the Bering sea. I can’t imagine having one here stateside.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        I will have to ask my wife. She actually drove an ’82 HiAce in High School. You know, back when the HiAce was sold here as “Van”.

        Edit: Oops, looked it up, had to be an ’84. And it was technically a MasterAce, not a HiAce.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        Have you driven the Toyota Estima van? It looks pretty cool in pictures, and they have a hybrid available in Japan.

        • 0 avatar

          My wife’s best friend has a late 90s Estima with about 1000 stuffed Winnie the Poohs piled up on the dash and I have been in it a few times but not driven one. It’s a cool looking van, honestly.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            http://www.arenakereta.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/New-Estima-facelift-2012-2.jpg

            Wow!

            Also LOL

            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/1998_Toyota_Estima-Emina_01.jpg

            Looks like they made the GS into a van.

    • 0 avatar

      I rode many miles in an HiAce. A diesel 5spd. about 30 mpg equivalent.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        When we were in Costa Rica a year ago January, I formed the opinion that the Hi-Ace passenger van was the most common vehicle in the country. It was certainly the most common large vehicle. Every one I rode in was a diesel 5-speed. Can’t comment on the ride when empty as I never rode in one that didn’t have at least four people and luggage on board.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    We have a 1999 Honda Oddy bought new on the second tranny. The engine and body have held up quite well. Given the Pentastar is now standard on the Chryco mini vans, I would buy one of these for $10K less than a similarly equipped Honda, Toyota or Nissan mini van.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The “R42H” Quest is actually based on the third-generation, “E52″ Elgrand, not the Serena.

    The JDM Elgrand is 4915mm long, while the US Quest is stretched to 5100mm long. The new Serena is built on the “MkIV C26″ platform, with a shorter length of 4685-4770mm, and is currently only sold in Japan and other East Asian markets.

    You can tell the Quest and Elgrand are closely related in the photos above: they have virtually identical bodywork aside from their fascias; the Elgrand has slightly different door sills.

    The Serena, on the other hand, is smaller in every dimension and has a “dip” in the greenhouse not present in the Quest. IMO the Serena is more attractive than the Elgrand or Quest.

    That said, there are probably more luxurious trim levels of Elgrand not available in the US Quest.

    Finally, it would seem Nissan offers not five but _six_ distinct minivan options:

    - Elgrand (one word)
    - Serena
    - Lafesta Highway Star (great name)
    - Wingroad
    - NV350 Caravan (the cab-over option)
    - NV200 Vanette

  • avatar
    mike978

    I thought you were going to get a Dodge GC.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s pretty much what I’ve decided. I think it offers the best looks and options for the price. It will be the standard the others are all judged against but who am I not to drive others? :)

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        But what about the potential collector value in a VW-badged Chrysler van? Not to mention the adoring/jealous stares of having one of these exotics abroad?

        • 0 avatar

          VW burned their bridges with me when my Golf died that afternoon on the freeway in Okinawa. If there was a new VW made by Ferrari for the price of an old used Pinto I would take a pass.

          • 0 avatar
            akatsuki

            How does the GC map against the T&C in features, etc? And versus the Odyssey? Everyone says the Sienna is very cheap on the interior…

            We drove a T&C around on vacation for a week and loved it.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Have you driven the 3rd generation Odyssey or the 2nd/3rd generation Sienna yet?

        We drove all three, and the 3rd gen Odyssey was our favorite. We bought a 2nd generation Sienna, though, because the 2004 Sienna was almost as good as the Odyssey, but cost 1/3rd as much used.

        We didn’t love the 2nd gen Odyssey. I’d love it if my kid (hopefully kids at some point) was older, but it didn’t have as many top tethers and it just feels less kid-oriented than the 2nd gen Sienna. Also, it looks like it would be harder than necessary to modernize the infotainment system on some versions of the Odyssey. In a 2nd gen bake off, sienna wins big. In a 3rd gen contest, the Odyssey likely wins.

        We drove the Grand Caravan, and it was fine. My wife didn’t like the styling, the handling, or the fact that her mother owns one. I didn’t have any problems with it, but I also think the 2004-2008 Sienna is a better van than a 2013 GC overall. The stow-and-go seats in the GC could tip the balance some people, though.

        The Sienna I have is rust free after 9 years in the Midwest, and it ought to keep running until I can afford to replace it with some sort of family oriented vehicle from Tesla in 5-10 years…

  • avatar
    racebeer

    A bit OT, but still Nissan related. We just got back from a week in Florida with an Altima S with the CVT. Overall the car was fine and we averaged over 31 mpg having driven around 600 miles. HOWEVER … the CVT drove me nuts in around town slogging. The problem occurred in stop/go/slow traffic where you only used very light throttle. The CVT, under this light throttle application, would drop the revs way too soon to the point that around 30mph there was a low frequency BOOMING running throughout the chassis. The first time it happened, my wife asked what the heck is that?? Only by giving it a bit of gas to get the revs up would the booming stop. It even happened at speeds as high as 45. Highway cruising was fine. This rental only had 8500 miles on it, so I can’t say whether it was an abuse problem or not. In any event, we found that experience rather unpleasant.

    The only other observation I’ll make is that the electric PS was a bit notchy feeling on-center. Running 80mph down I95 in a crosswind required alot of corrective action to keep the Altima straight due to this little deadspot in the steering.

    However, I will say that the mileage and interior comfort were quite acceptable!!!

    • 0 avatar
      IndianaDriver

      The noise problem at 30 mph is with the CVT computer programming. With the new generation of CVTs first seen in the Altima, Nissan is trying to max out mpg by having the CVT shift into “higher” gears at low RPMs. It’s annoying and they need to update the software to correct this booming feel you talk about.

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      That booming is a little unusual. Every CVT I’ve used from Nissan has a resonance at low RPM, typically around 1200. It feels like an barely audible pressure sensation and until you go back to a car with an automatic, it’s very easy to tune out. For whatever reason though, it’s more pronounced in some cars. My Maxima had a TSB about this. The solution was to make the transmission programming a bit more aggressive. It was a free fix from Nissan.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The last Quest co-built with Ford (as the Mercury Villager) should have been updated and upgraded. Perfect size and decent mpgs.

    These Quests are bizarre looking. I see very few here in minivan-loving Houston.

    Yes the Dodge GC is the one to beat for drivability and value. Unless you can find a new 2011 Routan hidden in a VW dealer’s back lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      I had a 1999 Nisan Quest (same as the Mercury Villager), and it had some things going for it. It was a little bit shorter, which helped in the garage, but it understeered at highway speeds. legroom in the back and middle rows were compromised a bit as was storage space behind the rear seat. The removable middle seat with forward sliding rear seat was workable but probably not as good overall as sto-n-go & fold flat rear seat. The 3.3 liter engine was just powerful enough not to be slow, but it didn’t get any better fuel economy than the 3.8 liter Grand Caravan. I liked the removable shelf giving two levels of storage in the back. I have a lot of fond memories of family outings in the Quest.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      BTW, the Routan and the GC are so similar that you can retrofit the stow and go seats into the Routan.

      Getting an exact match on the fabric/leather color might be an issue, though.

      I haven’t driven a Routan, much less driven it back to back with a GC, so I have no idea if the suspension feel is the same. I hope that Routan would have had a sportier feel, but VW dashed my hopes when I owned a 2001 Jetta, so I don’t want to guess.

      But, yeah, if Routan fell into my lap, I’d totally bolt in the stow and go seats! Probably in leather, and in a color that contrasted with the existing interior.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “There seems to be a real hole in the market as far as the Japanese brands are concerned, for a well optioned, value priced minivan that offers the good looks and the stylistic extras of the highest end models but deletes all the touches of luxury that I, as a family man, can’t really conceive of using. There is no way I am dropping 42 large on a van just so I can get one that looks half-way decent.”

    That’s why you should consider a Kia Sedona. We love our 09; it has plenty of power, space, and features, and new ones come with a better warranty than any other minivan.

    The bigger players have taken advantage of the market and priced their stuff up to obscene levels.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I didn’t think they were doing Sedona anymore, but a glance at the Kia website says otherwise. The Koreans have certainly gotten their act together building cars compared to the first Sedona.

      The Quest is off the list because the wife doesn’t like the boxy styling.It won’t fit in my garage and I’m not a fan of the CVT(Altima 2.5 owner here) or the bizarre outside view from the drivers seat Tom mentioned.

      The interior is well done though and it offers quite a bit of space. For me, it’s really down to the Odyssey or a Chrysler in about a year. I’m not opposed to the Dodge R/T though and the Chryslers are great bargains used. The only concern with Odyssey is Honda’s transmission woes and paying a premium for the Honda. They seem largely resolved, but I rode in an ’11 Odyssey and the transmission really “clunked” down on a downshift once or twice that jolted the whole vehicle.

      Might have to see the Sedona though. Not a fan of the Sienna except in SE trim and even then, the leather/suede seats with twin boys gives me pause, as do 19″ wheels and tires.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed, but even the Sedona is off to a dead end as Kia seems interested in a CUV to replace it. A shame, really. They really outdid themselves on that van. They even through aluminum into the structure and suspension to keep the weight down.

        Looking at my dads ’09 Sonata Limited against the ’07 Sedona EX we have, I see a lot more cut corners (penny pinching) in the Hyundai. If you look at the passenger foot well of either vehicle, the Sonata has an indentation where the hood-release lever would be if it was a RHD car– the Sedona lacks that. The Sedona also has the visor extenders on BOTH visors, not just the drivers side. I like the Sonata, but the Sedona surprises me a little bit more.

        There’s not much I can say of the current Sedona other than there’s the new 3.5L/six-speed auto that replaced the 3.8L/five-speed auto combo. That 3.8L sure makes a decent growl for a van, and the handling in the hills is still pretty competent aside from some plow in tighter bends.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I can’t take the Sedona seriously here, because while in S. Korea I saw them everywhere with their real name – Carnival.

        A Kia Carnival. Ew.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I just can’t get excited about a minivan. Its just such an appliance, destined for a life of essentially abuse at the hands of children, pets, relatives, etc. The idea of dropping $30-40k+ on one, no matter how long I will own it, just makes me sick to even imagine.

    IMO this is the time to bargain shop, and the biggest bargains out there are at the Dodge showroom. The Blacktop package on the GC is pretty cool for a minivan, but my cheapness would win out… brand new Value package van for under $20k, probably less with the typical Dodge bargaining, and call it a day. The last GC we rented easily pulled 28mpg on a roadtrip, had plenty of power, was comfortable, well put together, just a fine vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Buy the van for YOUR needs. As my car-riding guest, you will get a seat, safety devices, and environmental considerations with heat and ac.

      The heated seats and sunroof are for me.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If I was buying a new minivan today, I would probably by the “man van” RT version of the Grand Caravan. I like the Odyssey, I just don’t like the Odyssey price tag. Maybe I’d go for a used one if the deal was right. I actually did buy a minivan this year, a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan to replace the 2006 Grand Caravan that was wrecked. I have no need for a newer model as it will receive minimal use as a third car.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The R/T is cool too but still pretty pricey, $10k over the value pack. The Blacktop package gets you the R/T look for a lot less money but still like $6k over VP. But still for me it would have to have some deep discounting to justify not just sticking with the base model and maybe finding some OEM 17″ takeoff rims eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      A trailer hitch and a folding harbor freight trailer turns any minivan into a man-van.

      Trying to turn a van into a sports car misses the point of the minivan and the sports car. If you want a sports car, buy one. A used Miata and a used 2004 Sienna together cost less than the R/T provides more fun and more practical family transportation.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Isn’t it time we stopped calling these things “mini-vans” There is nothing mini about them anymore, they are just plain huge!

    Count me in the Chrysler camp. The Toyota and Nissan vans are ugly, the Honda is really ugly AND expensive. The Chryslers get the job done with minimum fuss and minimum expense.

  • avatar
    mcg

    The 2nd row center console pops out quite easily. Toyota and Honda put seats in this position so pick the one that suits your needs.

    WE just recently purchased a Quest based on its interior comfort, roominess and the smooth drivetrain and handling. Sure we’re driving a beige milk carton, but whatever, its a minivan right?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having graduated from minivan ownership some time ago, I feel your concerns. Our second Previa had the “captain’s chair” option, which put two really nice, independent chairs in the second row, with a walk-through passageway between them to the third row. I guess with people drinking Big Gulps in their cars all of the time, the console is necessary. Neither of our Previas had reached the cupholder stage, so there was a nice space on the floor between both the front and the second row of seats. My wife loved the fact that she could dump her purse their and it wouldn’t move around.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    I think the perfect sized mini van (not married, no kids, so what do I really know) van was the last generation Mazda MPV. Never owned a van but I did manage a car rental company from 2000-2010 so I drove my fair share of everything. I thought for a van it was good looking, had decent oomph, and it could actually handle pretty well (zoom-zoom and all that).
    Kind of a shame they discontinued it here after 2006.

    • 0 avatar

      We owned a 2002 JDM Mazda MPV for three years when we were in Okinawa and I loved it. It was my first mini-van and I really wish we could have brought it home to the USA.

      Since it seems I am going to be “the mini-van guy” for the next couple of weeks, maybe I’ll do a retrospective.

      I’ve also driven the latest model JDM MPV, but it has been years ago now, and I loved it too. It’s such a shame Mazda failed to bring it stateside. If they had I’d have bought a brand new one as soon as we came home in 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        sching

        Mazda stills sells the MPV as the “Mazda8″ in selected East Asian markets. Unfortunately, Mazda has not updated it since the introduction of the current generation in 2006. It still runs the “old” 2.3 litre four (the turbo version, related to the one on the US market CX-7 and the Mazdaspeed3 is available in Japan), and the interior is sorely lacking in today’s “must-have” features (i-device integration, Bluetooth, etc.)

        Having said this though, it’s probably Mazda’s best seller here in the admittedly tiny market of Hong Kong. I think its success is due to its “right-size” (for this market) – bigger than the small sedan-based MPVs and smaller than the Elgrand and the Toyota Alphard.

  • avatar
    DGA

    Ya know, I used to break out in hives just seeing a minivan in front of me while driving, till I got to ride in an Odyssey that my gf’s sister with three kids has. Three car seats, plus three adults, plus the driver, plus a large stroller, plus groceries, all equaled up to one amazing vehicle that can handle it all in stride. The sliding doors, auto tailgate, celling AC vents, rear entertainment system, just had me looking at this thing in amazement. Trying to squeeze three of us into a 2013 911 S4, for a short jaunt, made me wish for a minivan and not driving a brand new 911. I feel weird just saying that.

  • avatar
    walker42

    Our friends can’t stop talking about their new Quest SL. I love riding in it, it feels like you’re in an Infiniti… quiet, solid and smooth. The material quality inside is much higher than on a Honda, Toyota or Chrysler.

    When it comes to the Quest’s styling it seems to be a love/hate thing. I love it.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Every Infiniti I have sat in feels like… a Nissan with softer leather on the seats. I think the Honda is nicer, haven’t tried a Toyota. But the Nissan seems nice too, actually most of the Nissan vehicles I have tried seem to have a decent quality interior.

      But who cares? No matter how nice the leather is, cleaning up dog hair, puke, spilled food and drinks isn’t any easier. Good seat covers are a better investment than a high end trim level.

      • 0 avatar
        cc92oct

        “Every Infiniti I have sat in feels like… a Nissan with softer leather on the seats.”

        Basically sums up what an Infiniti is, don’t ya think? :-D

    • 0 avatar
      4LiterLexus

      Even the Quest S seemed Infiniti-like in terms of interior materials quality. Having driven both the current-gen Grand Caravan and the Nissan, I would say that the Quest feels like a more substantial vehicle. If it’s refined enough to sell in Japan as the Elgrand, then the Quest is good enough for me.

      It’s a shame Ford left the minivan segment. The D4 CUV platform could probably spawn a comfortable, well-appointed people mover.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    There is simply no need to make a vehicle this unattractive. Nissan, Toyota – talking to you two specifically. What happened to the restrained contemporary lines of the original Sienna and Ford partnership Quest? And if you think these things look bad in the brochure, check out the base models with black-out grilles and wheelcovers. Jesus Christ.

    Town & Country wins hands down, IMO.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I recently had a Chrysler Town & Country on a 1500 mile business trip. I was late to the rent-a-car place and that’s all that was left. I haven’t had a “mini-van” since the early ’90s, but I can’t imagine these vehicles get any better then the T&C. I was thoroughly impressed. If you test drive one, it’ll be interesting to hear what you think

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The funny thing is that the T&C is the average-quality high-volume minivan on the market. I like both the Sienna and Odyssey better.

      Its a competitive segment!

      Choosing between these three really excellent vans is #firstworldproblems.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Just a suggestion, it may be worth it to buy a vehicle with leather seats, kids make sticky messes, and a damp paper towel is more then capable of cleaning them.

    As a Wyoming native, I encourage you to test drive a Suburban LT, there are lots of incentives.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As soon as the Suburban/Escalade gets sliding doors and 29MPG….

      There are a couple of Escalades driven by parents at my son’s preschool. They barely fit in the spot with their doors closed, and I had to move my properly parked van a spot over so that they cold open the door of their properly parked Suburbalade. (It was easier for me to move because I still had my engine running.) That seems to really limit the vehicle’s usefulness as a family vehicle for anyone who uses parking lots on a regular basis. Sliding doors on those things would help a lot. Also, a shorter hood would help too.

      My Sienna has just as many seats and plenty of cargo room, while occupying a much smaller parking footprint.

  • avatar
    cc92oct

    Feeling the Previa love on here.

    Family had a 91 Previa that all four of us kids learned to drive in. Ill always remember the road trips, the awesomeness of having the engine beneath my butt and the space! It was so big!

    After 300k it got retired as my parents downsized…

    Anyway I hope whatever the minivan choice it holds up for lots of memories

  • avatar

    Thomas, question: Why do you feel the need to take the car with you? Why don’t you just buy a car wherever it is you end up?

    For example, cars that come to Brazil un-prepped can have a hard time. Unprepared for our “gasoline” engine trouble can come pretty quick. Lots of imported cars have problems with their suspension that isn’t well adjusted to the conditions prevalent here. Parts for a Quest would be almost impossible to come buy, and if you brought a Caravan some of those parts would probably be different from the Caravan sold in Brazil. Bureaucratic difficulties to bring the car in. The list goes on and on.

    I mean, if you’re transferred to Western Europe or Australia (though they drive on the wrong side of the road there, right? :)) you’d probably not have so much trouble, but almost everywhere else in the world could be a major hassle.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure the infrastructure in a lot of places can wreak havoc on a new car and I did the “left hand drive car in the we drive on the left world” thing for six years so I know the difficulties. To me, it comes down to controlling what I can control. Getting my transportation lined up before heading out is just one less stress factor for me to worry about when I hit the ground.

      I do generally end up buying a second vehicle when we get where we are going because my job only pays to ship one so if it is obvious I made a mistake, I can buy something more appropriate for our daily errands and just use the other one as a back up. Most of the time, though, we are in big cities so things generally aren’t that bad unless we decide to go out into the boonies.

  • avatar
    Zoom

    I’m no writer, but boy, some of those sentences are really long.

  • avatar

    “It turns out that there really aren’t that many passenger vans for sale in the American market. Contrast this with my experience in Japan where the “one box” segment offers dozens of choices.”

    Easy, the Japanese tend toward practical and efficient means because they have a much more limited living space. In America, we like big, loud, and fast. Mommy can’t be so practical that she clips coupons AND drives a minivan.

    It’s really sad that American parents try to run away from the stigma of being a parent. No matter what, the vehicle of that generation’s choice will have that very same label, but nope… vanity. Oddly, my girlfriend is more willing to have a minivan than a station wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “It’s really sad that American parents try to run away from the stigma of being a parent.”

      Lots of parents match this description, but not all.

      My wife and I are proud parents. And practical. And happy to be seen in our van (though none of our friends ever remembers seeing a gray Sienna).

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed, not all. Perhaps the lack of the word “many” could have been useful in my overall tone. Sorry it seemed so generalized.

        Like you, my parents didn’t care about stigmas, nor do three-out-of-five of my sisters (one hasn’t had kids yet, but still rocks the Sedona mentioned elsewhere on this page). Passing soccer fields there are still second-gen Odyssey’s aplenty (which one of the other sisters has, and the third has a first-gen Sienna).

        Still, there is that majority that still sees a minivan as their parents’ vehicle… that’s further compacted when those parents (now grand parents) still like having a minivan. My dad and I still miss our ’96 Town & Country. That 3.8L may have only had 166hp, but the 245ftlbs were nice to have. The ride was soft, the A/C blew cold for a long time until a leak occurred, the eight-speaker Infinity sound system was probably the best sound we’ve ever had, and the cupholders held a 20oz Coke damn-near perfectly with the spring-loaded arms that’d wrap around the base. The damn-near only comes from the location blocking the HVAC controls up front. Sadly the transmission was a weak common point that made us give up on it.

  • avatar

    More recent vans I’ve looked at are the Sienna, Sedona, and Quest.

    Of them, I’m probably biased toward the Sedona since we have an ’07. My thing against the Quest (aside from the Alien face and Marge Simpson beehive roof/window-line) is the seats. Up front it’s fine, but why buy a van if the only comfortable spots are up front? Think of the kids!

    For the Sienna, the dynamics afforded by the SE are nice, but the interior drops quite a lot in that trim. Older XLE’s (first and second gen Sienna’s included) had nicer interiors, and it’s crappy to see Toyota’s plastic getting so flimsy and over-used these days. One of my chief nuh-uh’s about the Sienna is the third row seats. When folded down, the load floor isn’t flat. Stuff will pile up in the divot, and get caught on the edge of the handles.

    The Sedona is far from perfect. Ours tends to go through light bulbs frequently enough to make me scratch my head, and the second row is a little hard to get comfy in with the way the seats recline. Bolt upright isn’t comfy, but just a hint of rearward lean sticks the bottom of the back cushion right into the lower back. Some of the plastics could also be hardier (while dusting the HVAC vents up front with a toothbrush, some of the vent-adjustment thingy int he middle snapped off). The seating in the drivers seat isn’t great, either, but that’s a van. Otherwise our ’07 Sedona EX is really a surprisingly competent van to drive, and there’s nothing I can say that tells how much of an improvement it was over the first generation Sedona. Would I recommend one? Not whole-heartedly. Most vans would be that way, though, since manufacturers cut corners to make them most of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The light bulb thing is something I can relate to, but my vehicle was selective on what bulbs burned out. My old S10 Blazer used to go through bulbs in two places. The left turn signal, and the dome light. I didn’t change a bulb anywhere else! Just for grins, I took out my voltmeter and measured the voltage at the dome light, turn signal, and several other places, and the total spread between them was about .02 volts, and the dome was the lowest of them. I must have put 10 or 12 dome lights in it and a half dozen turn signal bulbs in it in the almost 5 years I had it. I got pulled over only once in it, and it was for the left turn signal which had burned out about two minutes previously. When the cop was talking to me, I said, “It goes out a lot, I don’t know why”, and reached into the console and showed him my supply of dome light and turn signal bulbs. He laughed and just told me to fix it ASAP. It was done about a half hour later, and about 6 months later, again. At least when my ’77 Power Wagon blew bulbs out, it was obvious why, as the regulator was bad.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s just headlights and tail lights for the Sedona, but when it happens as often as it does, it gets kind of old. It has been a while since the last time, though. At least there are four bulbs back there so there’s still light on either end.

        Like you, there’s a box in my Echo dedicated to bulbs, but only because I have spares. The headlights go out quick, but I refuse to drive without them on in the daytime. People have a hard enough time telling how fast it’s going or close it really is.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Stick with your plan, Thomas. Even if you end up with a GC, I will look forward to your comments on others.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Always in Quest of Honda & Toyota and even Chrysler, where it can’t touch on price. CVT = no towing a hot dog stand or anything for that matter. Possibly a better buy used.

  • avatar
    sastexan

    Tom – I completely agree with your comments on the Quest. When we were shopping, I looked at one but never even made it to the test drive – primarily because of the seating arrangements but also just as importantly, how much wasted space is in the Quest. The folding seats are cool if you use that feature, but when you are deep in car seat phase, most likely you just need real estate (in our case, we wanted a usable, comfortable third row for adults that we frequently use).

    After 2 1/2 years of gen4 Odyssey ownership, and a few rentals of the ChryCo versions, my wife and I still feel we made the right decision spending the extra money (although Honda dealers are more willing to deal than many people give them credit for) for the Ody over the other choices (well, the Sienna is essentially the same MSRP similarly equipped). We did two road trips in rental ChryCo versions – the third row is terrible for 3 adults for more than 15 minutes (we had 2 car seats and 5 adults), the gas mileage turned pathetic, the transmission shuddered and slammed into gear in ALL three rentals (each rented in a different part of the country and different season), and the seats overall were not terribly comfortable. My wife despised driving them – said they felt like a van (whereas she thinks the Ody feels like a long sedan). Yes, it has some steering feel over the Ody and a nicer engine note. However, for the way we use the van (and I suspect many others looking at the sales figures), the utility of the Ody was hands down far superior to the competitors.

    With the 2014 refresh, you can get a real deal on a 2013 Ody – there are not that many substantial changes to the lower trim levels (unless you love touch screens). Friend of mine just got a huge deal on a 2013 Ody.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    We require AWD, so shopping ends with the Sienna, which doesn’t drive very well. Suck it up for a set of $1k Megan Racing coilovers, and that apparently transforms it, but I haven’t quite had the courage, yet.

    I’ve also heard the Sienna Sport (or some similar name) actually drives really well, but since it’s FWD only, I haven’t had the courage to test drive it, for fear of trying to talk myself into getting by without AWD.

  • avatar
    grandprix

    Have to agree with you on the Mazda MPV. We have a 2005 MPV and it’s our fourth minivan. Size wise our ’95 Voyager short wheel base fit our needs the best, but our current MPV comes close. Fits great in our garage, looks great and gobbles up anything we put into it. Our kids would NEVER own a minivan but don’t mind driving it at all when they have something to haul.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d love to eek a few more horses from that 3.0L V6. Wasn’t it related to that in the Mazda6/Ford Fusion? I know it doesn’t need to be fast, but even for its day the Honda’s and Toyota’s were packing a punch in comparison.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    If you are OK with shopping in the Nissan quest price range, have you considered the Ford Flex?

    EcoBoost V6 with 365 horsepower, YO!

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    I can weigh in here. We have owned 2 Dodges and currently a Sienna. While the Dodges gave good service, the repair frequency was much higher than the 2nd gen Sienna. We got about 200K out of the Dodges and 350K+ from the Sienna. Of course each has its own issues but I would much rather deal with a broken slider cable than a transmission (Honda-I’m talking to you).

    With your upcoming travels I might recommend the Mercedes R diesel. Wile not know for exceptional reliability, i think it could give great service over the long haul.

    • 0 avatar

      As cool as the R-Class is (I never knew the quarter windows were electric vents like a van), it has a weakness shared with the Ford Flex: regular doors.

      The Flex is one of the few CUV’s I’d have over a minivan, but lacking the sliding doors does make for a problem. There’s nothing quite like having kids open a door and clonk the next car over or a parked sign. Sliders are handy for loading and unloading in parking areas, not to mention the option to have electric/remote doors.

  • avatar
    DrSmooth

    You are missing the best configuration of the Nissan Quest as found on the local Autotrader.

    2011 White SV, with Beige and McDonald’s RED interior.

    http://wwwb.autotrader.ca/a/Nissan/Quest/THORNHILL/Ontario/5_16521569_ON20080709094920187/?ursrc=hl&showcpo=ShowCPO

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Oh my god it’s maraschino cherry colored! How does that match with the dark wood on the dash, or really anything else in life? That must’ve been a special order for which someone paid dearly.


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