Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Your new minivan will never attract the opposite sex, cause double takes or instigate a drag race at a red light. What it will do is transport your family around town and across country with more comfort and room than any other vehicle out there. So for those of you willing to put greater priority on moving people than powering away from a stop, our expert panel looks past peak horsepower and cornering ability to rank the best minivans on the market.
Best deal: Toyota Sienna
The Sienna is our top pick this year because of its winning combination of versatility, reliability and looks. “A new elegant interior assembled from attractive components is a vast improvement over what was there before,” says Ron Corbett of the Automobile Protection Association. Toyota used to offer both four- or six-cylinder engine choices, but the smaller power plant was dropped two years ago. The sole engine choice offered now is considered both strong and economical and our experts say Toyota’s reputation for reliability is well deserved here. It’s also the only traditional minivan among our picks that can be bought with all-wheel drive. “All-wheel drive is huge plus for Canadian drivers who have to negotiate winter conditions,” says auto writer Tim Dimopoulos.
2nd place: Honda Odyssey
Considered the minivan by which all others are judged, Corbett says the Odyssey has lost a little lustre of late with owners complaining of transmission and engine issues after the fifth year. Still, our experts praise the van’s comfort, ride and comprehensive list of standard features. It tends to be pricey in the higher trim lines, but Corbett says the base
LX model has most of the goodies the average family will ever need or want. However, the overpriced Touring package does come with an industry first: a built-in vacuum cleaner.
3rd place: Dodge Grand Caravan
Chrysler invented the minivan and they’ve managed to find the perfect combination of price and practicality. With a starting price under $20,000 it’s awfully attractive to families, but most buyers tend to upgrade to get the same features that come standard on the base model Sienna and Odyssey. Fit and finish are a little below its competitors but CTV’s automotive expert Petrina Gentile says the Caravan is perfect as a “value-packed, affordable, family-friendly ride.”
4th place: Ford Flex
Though technically not a minivan, the Flex still carries six passengers in relative comfort and with a whole lot more style than most. “It’s a love-it-or-hate-it vehicle, and I love it,” says auto columnist Jil McIntosh. Not all our experts agreed, though. “I’m not a big fan of the wagon design—it looks like a hearse, especially in black,” says Gentile. Still, if you can get past the looks, the car-like ground clearance makes it handle better than a minivan, says Corbett. Like the Sienna, the Flex can also be bought with all-wheel-drive but it is a $2,000 upgrade.
5th place: Kia Sedona
Considerably sleeker and more sophisticated than its predecessors, the third generation Sedona may finally be worthy of its price. “The front-end styling has a Mercedes quality to it which makes it a pretty sharp stroller carrier,” says auto expert Nika Rolczewski. Still, Corbett says Kia needs
to offer better value and greater incentives if they intend to steal customers away from the Caravan, Sienna and Odyssey. As with all Kia vehicles, the Sedona comes with an impressive five-year comprehensive warranty.