Here’s why it’s high time for a minivan renaissance

Aurich Lawson

In the grand plan of items, I have tiny to complain about in phrases of the pandemic. I haven’t shed my position, my home, or any of my relatives, and given that my wife and I both equally worked at residence already, there was not even an business office to cease commuting to. The major do the job-relevant influence is possibly not possessing to established foot on an airplane for about a 12 months, but the automakers have been very excellent about bringing Ars new versions for shorter initially drives, as very well as the usual push fleet financial loans.

But 1 form of vehicle continues to be hard to test, which is a disgrace since it is really a variety I enjoy driving. In truth, it truly is a single that I feel is due for a revival, the exact way that kids have unironically revived mom jeans and fanny packs. I am talking about the minivan.

But the SUV is king?

It is extremely hard to deny the American appreciate affair with the SUV. From large up in the driver’s chair, you have a commanding view of the street, and with 3 rows of seats, there is place for the whole relatives. But let us be honest with ourselves: no a person purchases a Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, or Chevrolet Suburban with the intention of using it to cross the Darien Hole. Any off-road means these SUVs do or never have is completely incidental.

It wasn’t usually this way. We only have to go again as far as the early 2000s to see that the three-row relatives hauler of selection was an altogether a lot more sensible—dare I say more utilitarian—body fashion. Back again then, much more than a million minivans located households in America each individual 12 months now, we’re in all probability at a third of that.

The Scout Scarab is probably the spiritual heir of today's minivans.
Enlarge / The Scout Scarab is most likely the spiritual heir of modern minivans.

There were proto-minivans as significantly again as the early 1930s, like the Scout Scarab or perhaps Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Vehicle. But the real kind emerged in 1984 in North The united states with the arrival of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager and in Europe with the Renault Espace. Prior to prolonged, these futuristic-searching a person-box autos had become the family members conveyance of selection, specifically due to the fact they could carry up to 7 men and women.

In The usa, the minivan’s achievement arrived at the expense of the huge station wagon. In component which is simply because it really was a greater answer. The 3rd row of seats wasn’t rear-facing or situated in a crumple zone. Sliding doors supplied a lot superior accessibility to the rear, and they were much easier to open up in restricted places. And the driver sat greater up, which intended a much better look at of the highway.

But the minivan’s popularity was partly owing to manner. Basically place, the station wagon had come to be the deeply uncool mom-cellular. Youthful people shopping for vehicles desired a thing distinct, and the minivan was it. Till it wasn’t, simply because in time, trend altered again and the minivan began to have the mother-cell tag as interest shifted to the SUV.


In the in advance of periods, Ars Controlling Editor Eric Bangeman did the minivan examining for us. Which created excellent sense he has a relatives and has to do Father chores like push little ones to sports practice and so on. But he is fast paced with his working day task, and above the earlier handful of months, Honda sent me its latest Odyssey ($32,090-$47,820), and then much more lately, Toyota despatched above a Sienna ($31,565-$49,340). Contrary to Eric, I never have young ones, so my mind is not definitely attuned to the factors a mum or dad could want.

Pre-COVID, I could at the very least round up some mates and travel them all over for a bit. That hasn’t really been an selection, for obvious motives. But which is not to say I failed to love my time with both people-mover. You can find that identical high-up driving position that anyone enjoys in an SUV, but simply because you might be not pretending you may possibly be about to enterprise off the beaten route, the suspension just isn’t on stilts, so your centre of gravity and roll middle are in places a lot more conducive to good managing.

The Honda Odyssey is a fine-looking minivan, and it's pretty good to drive, too.
Enlarge / The Honda Odyssey is a wonderful-searching minivan, and it’s fairly superior to push, also.


Eager motorists will most likely want the Honda Odyssey. For a person matter, it shares its 3.5 L V6 engine—or considerably of it—with Acura’s race-winning ARX-05 athletics prototype. In sport manner, you might even turn into impressed when driving the correct highway. It is really also not bad-hunting as significantly as the recent crop of minivans go when it is really no initial-gen Espace, it could be the sole instance of a floating roof that I don’t actually intellect.

If you happen to be searching for a little something a minimal extra environmentally mindful, the plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica is a little bit of a no-brainer, as prolonged as you have someplace to plug it in.

But if you will not have any where to plug in at evening and the Honda is far too thirsty, there’s normally the Toyota Sienna, which has been wholly redesigned due to the fact we previous examined a person in 2018. Now constructed on the firm’s acquainted TNGA-K architecture, which also gives us the Camry, Highlander, RAV4, and that charming Venza, all Siennas are now hybrids.

The Toyota Sienna is now a hybrid.
Enlarge / The Toyota Sienna is now a hybrid.


It’s truly the same hybrid powertrain as in the Highlander, but in this installation, I uncovered it a great deal less obnoxious and slightly more economical, far too, averaging all over 32 mpg (7.3 L/100 km). The third row is a good deal extra practical than the Highlander’s, and you will find way much more cargo space when that row is in use. Our exam car even experienced tiny sensors so you could open the sliding doorways by waggling a foot underneath it. And although the Sienna was not really as entertaining to drive as the Odyssey, I would decide on a single around a Highlander—or rather a great deal any other three-row SUV—every working day of the 7 days.

So I’m listed here to distribute the word: minivans still exist, some of them are really efficient, and all of them are greater at working day-to-working day everyday living than a 3-row SUV. Let us have a revival.

Leave a Reply