The 2014 Minivan Guying Guide from CarPreview.com highlights — arguably — the most practical vehicles on the road. Minivans afford a commanding view of your surroundings, yet provide convenient access with a low step-in height. Large sliding rear side doors make it easy to get in and out of the rear seats and to buckle kids into car seats, even in crowded parking lots. Power-operated sliding doors and a power opening/closing rear liftgate are available for added convenience.
Nonetheless, once the preeminent vehicle in driveways in garages and driveways across America (sales reached nearly 1.4 million in 2000), the minivan has become a threatened automotive species. Call it a suburban stigma, but most families have migrated to SUVs. Still, minivan sales were 532,257 in 2013, down 4 percent, but evidence of a loyal following from whom you’ll get no argument about the value of practicality, stigma be damned.
Our guide includes seven minivans (there were 15 models available in 2000), ranging in in horsepower from 157 to 283, in fuel-economy ratings from 19 to 24 mpg city/highway combined, and in base price from $20,935 to $45,310. (Base prices in the 2014 Minivan Buying Guide do not include optional equipment but do include manufacturer destination fees, which average around $900.) The typical minivan has a six-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The Mazda 5, however, comes with a four-cylinder engine (it even offers a manual transmission), and the Toyota Sienna offers both front-and all-wheel drive.
Here is our 2014 Minivan Buying Guide:
Chrysler Town and Country
After nearly 30 years in production the Town & Country nameplate still describes one of the best all-around family vehicles. The T&C is expected to undergo a full redesign for the 2015 model year, but the 2014 version delivers a spacious and practical interior, solid performance, and a long list of comfort, convenience, and safety features. The only powertrain teams a 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic transmission and does a good job bringing this seven-seater up to speed. Handling is effortless, the ride smooth. The signature feature is Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go seating system. It allows both the second and third row to fold into the floor separately or together for maximum cargo carrying flexibility, without having to remove any seats. Options include blind-spot warning that alerts the driver to the presence of adjacent vehicles for safer highway lane changing. The Town & Country is the upscale version of the Dodge Grand Caravan. Fuel-economy rating is 20 mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $31,760-$42,760.
2014 Dodge Grand Caravan
One of Chrysler’s original minivans, the original Caravan took the U.S. by storm in the mid-1980’s. In a sign of the times, however, today’s Grand Caravan will be sent packing at the end of the 2014 model year; its expected replacement is a new crossover SUV. Meantime, this mainstream cousin of the Chrysler Town & Country is still one of the best values in a family vehicle. Assets include a roomy and smartly designed interior, a lively 283-horsepower V-6, easygoing ride and handling, and a long list of family-friendly features. As with its more-upscale sibling, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Grand Caravan features Stow ‘n Go seating in which second and third rows can folding into the floor. With both rows stowed the van can hold a remodeling project’s worth of materials – including full size sheets of drywall. With the seats upright, the in-floor stowage bays function as covered storage bins. Grand Caravan can be loaded up with luxury features and offers one of the simplest multimedia-control systems in the business. Fuel-economy rating is 20 mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $21,490-$30,990.
2014 Honda Odyssey
The Odyssey gets a minor makeover for 2014 that includes freshened exterior styling and a revised interior treatment. It packs a smooth but only modestly powerful 248-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. Odyssey gets our vote for the best-handling minivan, though the smooth ride can get quite firm on pockmarked pavement. This is an eight-passenger van, with sufficient room for five adults to ride comfortably in the first two rows. The three-place rearmost bench isn’t quite so friendly to adults. A Bluetooth wireless phone interface with hands-free e-mail and text-messaging functions is newly standard for 2014. While the top-line Odyssey Touring Elite model comes with a much-promoted built-in vacuum cleaner, be aware this feature can be duplicated on the cheap with any number of small 12-volt hand-held units. Fuel-economy rating is 22 mpg city/highway combined. Base-price range is $29,655-$45,310.