Piston Slap: Why So Uncool Minivan?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Josh writes:

What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not cool. I could get a wagon though. Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?

Will minivans ever be cool to own?

Sajeev answers:

What’s the deal with minivans? From public perception, CUV popularity, fleet usage, etc. the “uncool minivan” is indeed a sad reality. But there is plenty to love here on TTAC, from the Farago era to something brilliantly Baruthian. My second favorite rental vehicle was the 3.6L Pentastar Caravan: it was quick and comfortable with chassis/suspension/steering components ready to play. No surprise, my fav rental was a white 2011 Crown Vic. But I digress…

Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon? Not really, even if they (kinda) ended the station wagon era. Uncool minivans are a radical rethink: eschewing the traditional notions of the family wagon and the creepster’s van with the adoption of a modern front-wheel drive layout (Aerostar and Astro notwithstanding) for maximum utilization of a traditional two box design, while adding the styling of a family sedan/wagon for curb appeal. Supposedly the Chrysler minivan’s early concepts were lifted from Ford’s work in the early 1970s: possible since Lee Iacocca famously left FoMoCo after butting heads with Henry II far too many times, and took some design staffers with him… though that’s the subject of some controversy.

Will minivans ever be cool to own? Keep in mind the Minivan was and remains an enlightened design: that will attract people. Just like so many Pistonheads go nuts over vintage wagons these days (especially with wheels you’d expect on a restomod ’69 Camaro), the uncool minivan will come back to win our hearts.

Until then, who gives a crap what people think? Go buy one and brush off the haters, no matter what they say!

[Image: Shutterstock user BoJack]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Sep 12, 2014

    Where the minivan went wrong was in the extended length that made it a full sized vehicle. The original was 175 inches long, shorter than a Corolla is today.

  • Slowtege Slowtege on Sep 12, 2014

    Growing up my family had Caravans interspersed with Ford and Dodge full size vans. But it was pretty much Caravans from the early 90's on. We even had one of the turbo models. Mom got the new car, Dad drove the practical cheap/old car, which included a 1980 triple brown (velour seats!) LeSabre that sailed unperturbed over neighborhood road bumps/humps. Very cool. Our '98 GC Sport in Forest Green was my favorite from a design/aesthetic standpoint (ChryCo ruled the graphic integration game with the sliding door rail as part of the tinted window graphic). Our last one, a dealer demo '05 model with Stow'N'Go--I cannot say enough about how that is true package design and a welcome user feature--was also good and we had 145k on the original transmission before trading it in. Everyone who's driven Caravans knows those trans woes. Now Honda owners know the misery as well. All this to say that, I never thought minivans were uncool. It's really hard to argue with the fact that it's the best looking barn on wheels with practical driving manners. My mom has a Traverse, something still space and people capable (four boys, all over 6' tall--no small cute things for our family!), but not an obviously-practical-looking minivan. Doesn't help that the latest generation of Caravans aren't as pretty as previous ones, even if that 3.6 flies. I like my '97 Z28 6-speed a bunch. It's a lot of theater and '90s GM leather smell, but I really dig the Mazda 5--manual of course--for many reasons. It's the size of the original shorty Caravans, has a stick like they did, and looks great. And I can throw my bikes inside easily (the Camaro holds one as well. hilarious). I don't care that I'm single, Caravans have been marketed to surfers, and I like the contrarian nature of liking, owning and driving one. But not just yet--I've missed having a V8. :D

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.