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The Most Reliable Minivans

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The most reliable minivan is the Toyota Sienna. Finishing ahead of Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, and Kia minivans, it’s the overall award recipient in the latest Vehicle Dependability Study from J.D. Power, the industry’s most respected surveyor of customer satisfaction.

Results from Sienna owners polled put it in Power’s highest category, called “among the best,” for Overall Dependability and for the dependability of its powertrain. They placed in it Power’s third-tier “about average” category for problems associated with its body and interior. But they relegated it to the bottom rung, called “the rest,” when it came to such features as the in-vehicle communications system – about which more, later.

The Power study measures problems experienced over the past 12 months by original owners of 3-year-old cars, trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and minivans. The current 2016 survey covers model-year 2013 vehicles and analyzes issues involving features and controls, engine and transmission, entertainment and navigation, climate systems, and more.

The second-highest-rated minivan for overall dependability was the Chrysler Town & Country. Owners judged it “better than most” – Power’s second-best reliability rating, behind “among the best.” It was rated above average for the dependability of its powertrain, features, and accessories, and earned Power’s “among the best” ranking for the reliability of its body and interior, including the workings of such things as seats and safety belts and for the absence of squeaks and rattles.

 

The Town & Country and the similar Dodge Grand Caravan remain on sale for model-year 2016, but both are being replaced by the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Pacific is too new to be included in the dependability study. Although Grand Caravan is essentially a lower-cost version of the Town & Country, survey results placed at the bottom of every category measured, including overall dependability.

Finishing third for overall dependability, with an “about average” grade, the ’13 Odyssey was the only minivan in the survey to rate “among the best” for the performance of its features and accessories.

That stands out because the features and accessories category includes infotainment and navigation systems, and they have emerged as the most problematic area on most vehicles. Minivan owners, along with those of cars, trucks, crossovers, and SUVs surveyed, reported an all-time low for problems with major components like engines and transmissions. But J.D. Power says issues with mobile connectivity are skyrocketing, accounting for 20 percent of all customer-reported problems in its 2016 study.

It says connectivity problems most often reported by owners are finicky Bluetooth pairing, built-in voice-recognition systems that misinterpret commands, and navigation systems that are difficult to use or inaccurate. Town & Country was the only minivan besides the Odyssey to score above the minimum rating for feature and accessory dependability – and it merely made it into Power’s “about average” tier.

What does all this mean if you’re shopping for a new 2016 or 2017 minivan? The Power survey says more than 50 percent of owners consider expected reliability one of the most influential reasons for choosing a specific make and model. Indeed, owners’ experience with the Sienna dovetails with Power ranking Toyota fourth best for vehicle dependability among 32 automotive brands. Among brands with a minivan in the lineup, Honda finished 7th, Kia 17th, Chrysler 22nd, Nissan 27th, and Dodge 32nd.

The most recent Nissan Quest for which Power survey results are available is the 2015 model. It scored the “among the best” for initial overall quality – problems reported during the first 90 days of ownership – but finished in the lowest category for predicted reliability. Similarly, the 2015 model was the most recent Kia Sedona included in the Power survey. It was rated in the second-highest category — “better than most” — for overall initial quality, but joined Quest in the basement for predicted reliability.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at chuck.giametta@carpreview.com