Category: Vans

By on March 5, 2019

Ford is sexing up its sexiest vehicle, the Transit van, for the 2020 model year with a bevy of new powertrain options and added safety tech. Two new engines are a base 3.5-liter V6 and a 2.0-liter EcoBlue bi-turbo diesel four. Thanks to direct-and-port injection, Ford claims the V6 PFDi will offer greater efficiency than the 3.7-liter unit it replaces. Meanwhile, the hard-working 2.0 liter will do the same while offering improved power and torque against the outgoing 3.2-liter diesel.

The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 will persist as the preferred option for getaway drivers and thrill-seeking plumbers. All models will come with Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission, with gasoline models (including the beastly EcoBoost) having the option of all-wheel drive.  Read More >

By on December 13, 2018

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Blacktop Package - Image: FCA

The only minivans coming out of Detroit these days aren’t actually rolling out of Detroit, but a plant a stone’s throw from the Detroit River, on the Canadian side. Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant, home to the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan, will go dark for two weeks starting on New Year’s Eve, presumably to manage inventories.

Short-lived shutdowns are commonplace at the plant, where workers assemble one of the newest and undoubtedly the oldest minivans on the market. The latter vehicle, while likely not having much of a future, certainly has a fan base. It’s not giving up on the model, and sales figures show it. Read More >

By on September 19, 2018

The appearance of the unabashedly traditional, square-rigged Chrysler 300 in the mid-2000s inspired high-fives among car lovers sickened by the 1990s Ovoid Era. It’s unlikely those same revellers feel the same way about the 300 biting the dust to make room for a tech-savvy, electric minivan.

And yet, that’s what we’re hearing. In 2020, the last Chrysler passenger car will reportedly give way to a second Chrysler minivan, keeping the shrunken brand’s two-vehicle lineup intact. If only we could say the same for its heritage. Read More >

By on August 23, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: Chrysler

Let’s not kid ourselves. American demand for minivans is still shrinking. In fact, July sales in particular tumbled as three of the four top-selling minivan nameplates – a trio that accounts for nearly three-quarters of the sector’s volume – combined to lose more than 5,400 sales, year-over-year.

But set aside all of that negativity for just a moment and consider the segment in a more historical context. After more than a decade of collapsing demand, in which minivan volume plunged 54 percent between 2005 and 2015, the first seven months of 2018 reveal a hardy bunch of remaining stalwarts that have very nearly levelled off on an acceptable grade.

2018 is nevertheless on track to be the worst year for U.S. minivan volume since the recession. In this case, however, “worst” is beginning to sound like too strong of a word. Read More >

By on August 16, 2018

You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.

Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results. Read More >

By on August 16, 2018

As the Ford Aerostar and Toyota Previa fade from our collective memory, one could be forgiven for thinking minivans were always a front-drive proposition. As for winter-beating all-wheel drive, a laundry list of crossovers and SUV fill that buying space, poaching sales from the once-hot minivan segment.

Still, one model continues offering four-wheel traction for buyers who aren’t scared of being seen in a traditionally uncool minivan. That model, the Toyota Sienna, enters 2019 with more AWD availability. As an underdog in the segment, it seems Toyota wants to sell its offering as the more family-friendly SUV alternative. Read More >

By on July 20, 2018

2018 Honda Odyssey Cape Tryon copy - Image: © Timothy Cain

The wind is gusting above 40 miles per hour on New Brunswick’s Northumberland shore. I’m standing beside an oversized ATV trailer, desperately trying to figure out how one of three ratchet straps holding an ATV snowblower to the trailer tore itself to shreds, launching the blower into the trailer’s front box.

It’s the kind of wind that limits one’s cognitive function. Though often guilty of running multiple trains of thought along one set of tracks, I realize as I stare at the shredded strap that virtually all of my brain activity is presently devoted to maintaining a semi-socially acceptable level of snot spray and, concurrently, keeping my shirt from blowing up neck-high, Marilyn Monroe-style.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a whirlwind journey that began by leaving work early with the digital handshake of a deal, ended in my driveway with the blower intact. Hours later, our new 2018 Honda Odyssey EX ATV tow vehicle – a replacement for the 2015 Odyssey EX we victimized for three years – opened its tailgate to reveal a cavernous cargo area and hauled a wide array of 4x4s, 2x4s, and cement blocks home from the lumber yard. “Pickup trucks don’t take this much stuff in one load,” the teenaged attendant said. That afternoon, the Odyssey was back to hustling children across Prince Edward Island, three rows of seating full.

Can a minivan be beaten at life? Read More >

By on June 27, 2018

Image: FCA

The Ram brand isn’t shy about disclosing its identity to strangers. Many a passer-by has suffered retina damage after a shaft of sunlight caught the massive, seemingly foot-tall “RAM” lettering adorning the tailgate of the truck division’s pickup models.

The brand’s vans are another story. Perhaps feeling insecure due to their Mexican birthplace and Italian architecture, Ram’s ProMaster and ProMaster City felt it sufficient to display the horned Ram logo in the center of their Dodge-like crosshair grille. For 2019, however, the Fiat Ducato and Doblo Ram ProMaster and ProMaster City see a boost in self-esteem. Read More >

By on June 22, 2018

Minivans are great for a lot of things, but intimidating the neighbors is not among their many attributes.

While you could spend the weekend welding spikes onto one and giving everyone on your block “the stare down,” alternative options exist. You could purchase some custom wheels and replace the chrome accents with something darker, or you could have Chrysler do it for you if you’re in the market for a Pacifica.

As much as I hope this brings back a dark and sinister version of 1970s van culture, I would be satisfied with just seeing more of them on the road. According to Chrysler, the murdered-out look offered by the S Appearance Package has proven quite popular with standard Pacifica shoppers. Now, it wants to extend the opportunity to those interested in the plug-in hybrid model.  Read More >

By on June 20, 2018

Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen AG seem to be on the verge of a relationship that could yield jointly developed products aimed at the commercial sector. It’s looking a lot like the rumored FCA/VW partnership we reported on last year, only that date ended with cold showers.

Late Tuesday, Ford and VW issued a joint statement announcing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two automakers. This “potential alliance” might lead to the conception of any number of vehicles. Read More >

By on April 25, 2018

We’re always surprised with what counts as a van in Europe. For example, Ford just showcased a new one based on the Fiesta at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle Show — and it’s kind of wonderful. However, we’re unlikely to see it on our roads. A vehicle like this makes almost no sense for the North American market.

In fact, I can only think of a handful of applications for such an automobile: high-volume pizza delivery, flower delivery, amateur plumber, organ transport, and pet grooming for a business that only takes modestly sized animals. But they would all have to take place in an extremely-dense urban environment to rationalize the use of such a small vehicle. Otherwise, business owners are going to splurge on a proper small van like the Transit Connect.  Read More >

By on April 12, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package, Image: FCA

You’d think the advent of dedicated electric vehicle platforms would breed a new era of flat-floored minivans, but most automakers just aren’t interested in going that route — internal combustion or otherwise. There’s no electric Chevrolet Venture on the horizon, nor will Ford resurrect the Aerostar in EV form and name it after a late ’60s muscle car.

Even in our clean, green future, SUVs reign.

The present, however, hasn’t abandoned the minivan, even if the segment is a shadow of its former self. March minivan sales in the U.S. topped that of last March, and year-to-date sales are up compared to 2017, despite the disappearance of two nameplates. Unlike SUVs and crossovers, however, there’s just not enough demand to put wind in every minivan model’s sales. It’s easy to imagine a near future where Fiat Chrysler and Honda own the segment. Read More >

By on March 29, 2018

Automotive trade shows typically provide little more than early access to vehicles you’ve already read about for months. But every so often details emerge that are so incredibly hot, you can’t even begin to fathom why God chose to trust you with them.

At this week’s 2018 New York International Auto Show, Kia Motors America unveiled a refreshed 2019 Sedona minivan, which — get a load of this — has totally new fog lamps. These babies aren’t even remotely the same shape as the outgoing version’s bulbs. Those old round heaps are over and done with; we’re entering an entirely new era of illumination, folks.

To be accurate, the new Sedona actually has entirely new front and rear fascias but, after staring at the 2019 model for several minutes, the only standout upgrade seems to be the fog lights. Which is strange because, when compared with the older model, it becomes immediately apparent that the refresh worked some legitimate magic on the family wagon. Don’t believe us? Well, here is a visual sample of the 2018 Kia Sedona: Read More >

By on March 21, 2018

Image: GM

General Motors, the automaker that once took badge engineering to dizzying new heights, is culling a slow-selling carbon copy from its lineup. The Chevrolet City Express, a small, front-drive panel van you’ll be forgiven for not remembering, will no longer be available to commercial buyers, GM says.

Essentially a Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo with a chrome grille and bowtie badge where the word “Nissan” should be, this body double gave GM a cheap North American entry in a small commercial van market dominated by Ford Motor Company. It seems buyers preferred Ford by a wide margin. Don’t worry, though — there’s still a CVT-equipped van available for repairmen with oddball tastes. Read More >

By on February 8, 2018

When Ford launched the Transit Connect in North America in 2009, it was little more than a budget-friendly hauler for small business owners who needed a small van to help with their blossoming flower-delivery service. By the second generation, it received new engine options and became decidedly more passenger friendly, but remained light on features and refinement. Still, if you put a gun to the heads of a lot of car experts and asked them to pick a do-anything small vehicle, the Transit Connect would probably be on their short list.

Updated for its third generation, Ford is further enhancing the model’s versatility and comfort. However, Ford appears to be marketing the Transit Connect toward a very specific demographic — baby boomers.

While we think the Transit van’s smaller sibling probably has a far broader appeal than just the AARP crowd, things like a hip-high slide-in driver seat (with more comfortable foam), plenty of room for the grandkids, and an ultra-low load height do seem like desirable features for aging shoppers. You’d think Ford would market the Connect a viable alternative to crossovers.  Read More >

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