Minivans are undefeated as family haulers, but a recent announcement from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) casts doubt on their ability to protect the precious cargo in their back seats. The crash-testing organization gave all four American minivans below-acceptable ratings in its new moderate front overlap test, which was recently updated with a stronger focus on back-seat protection and safety.
While often derided as highly unfashionable, minivans really are the Swiss Army knife of vehicles. They’re people haulers, cargo carriers, mobile campsites, and can even improvise as work vehicles for when a utility van (the Leatherman of vehicles) is unavailable. Minivans also drive more like cars than the brutes occupying the SUV and pickup segment, making them easier for some drivers to live with.
With vans having enjoyed a cultural renaissance during the 1970s, minivans hit the ground running in the mid-1980s and continued to swell in popularity until the millennium. By then, North Americans were buying an estimated 1.5 million minivans a year. But that’s also where society decided to apply the brakes. Sport utility vehicles and crossovers have effectively supplanted the van as the default family conveyance — though recent sales figures have suggested those dying flames are now being rekindled.
Back when everyone still bought into the hype surrounding self-driving cars, automakers were releasing concept vehicles framed as a “lounge on wheels.” The theory was that once autonomous vehicles hit the mainstream, companies would begin dropping futuristic models with swanky interiors because drivers would no longer be responsible for piloting the car for the duration of its journey. However, the public eventually learned that autonomous driving technologies had failed to progress as promised and would likely come with a host of restrictions plenty of drivers wouldn’t be interested in once the wrinkles had been ironed out.
But there are a whole host of markets to be tapped, the public has a relatively short-term memory, and there’s always a chance that some major headway was made during the last few years of development. So we’ve seen a resurgence of mobility talk from the industry, especially as it relates to all-electric vehicles. Case in point is the Audi Urbansphere — an autonomous concept vehicle designed for “Chinese megacities” but allegedly perfect for a metropolitan area near you.
Historically speaking, the handicap accessible vehicle market in North America was catered to by aftermarket companies, who’d convert standard passenger vehicles (usually larger vans) to be accessible. But in the early 2000s, a couple of entrepreneurs had a new idea: A commercial vehicle designed from the get-go as accessible. Let’s talk about the Vehicle Production Group, it’s a bit of a wild ride.
Ever since the 1998 model year, Toyota has sold a big, American-style minivan with the engine in the front and cupholders throughout the interior. Prior to that, though, American Toyota shoppers looking for a new van had to take an innovative mid-engined machine designed entirely with the Japanese home market in mind: First the TownAce (known as the Van here) and then the Estima (known as the Previa here). The Previa was too small and too underpowered to compete head-to-head with Detroit minivans, but those who bought them found that they lasted for decade after decade. Here’s one in a Denver-area yard that got pretty close to the magical 400,000-mile mark.
Minivans are rarely sexy, but that won’t stop companies from trying to make them attractive, with varying degrees of success.
The gang in Auburn Hills decided that eye-pleasing design might help the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid capture sales. With that whole “hybrid” thing thrown in for a good measure of green cred.
The approach mostly worked, at least within the limitations that the van shape imposes on creativity. The Pacifica Hybrid is, dare I say, stylish.
Today’s Rare Ride is the more streamlined successor to the dorky Stanza Wagon, or Multi if you’re Canadian. I mentioned Axxess as a Rare Ride back in 2017 with the Stanza article, and today’s the day we present it properly.
Come along for some versatile Sport Wagon goodness.
Recently Rare Rides featured a very clean example of the DKW Schnellaster van from 1956. The front-drive and transverse-engine layout of the Schnellaster previewed in the Forties the basic format of the family minivan that would arrive over three decades later.
Among the standard Schnellasters produced, there was an even rarer variant: An electric version, as DKW experimented with the possibilities of early EV tech.
April’s fastest-selling used vehicles were led by the BMW 2 Series, according to iSeeCars. The 20 fastest-selling used vehicles averaged 28.7 days, 1.2-1.7 times faster than it took to sell an ordinary used vehicle. The fastest-selling used vehicles included a mix of sports cars, luxury vehicles, hybrids, and minivans.
Remember the all-electric Microbus successor Volkswagen was chirping about a few years ago? If you don’t, you can be forgiven. Despite the model receiving loads of press after the automaker acknowledged it would indeed be coming to North America, reports on its progress started becoming incredibly rare by 2019. With #VanLife trending inside the United States, VW would be an absolute fool not to start offering something trendy to fit the bill and the horribly named I.D. Buzz seems an ideal candidate. However, it feels as though the company has forgotten our market while it preps the model for Europe.
There’s reportedly no reason to worry. Volkswagen has confirmed that the model will be showing up on our shores in 2023 after it’s made a splash across the pond. But there will be a few stipulations.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Kat Laneaux @VoGhost - Not getting into politics. Let me say this though. I wouldn't trust Trump as far as I can throw him. His history precedes his actions and I am so not ok with it. The devil is the master of lies, unfortunately Trump is not far behind him. The guy is so desperate to stay in office, he might as well be Mussolini, or Putin. He just wants power and to be idolized. It's not about working for the people, he doesn't care about us. Put a camera on him and he wants the glory. As I said, his actions speak louder than words.
- ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
- Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
- ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
- Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies. https://x.com/WallStreetApes/status/1729212326237327708?s=20