Cars

What’s the Best Minivan? Winners & Losers

best minivan, minivan buying guide

The Chrysler Pacifica is the newest member of the minivan set. Does that make it the best? (Source: Chrysler)

As your family grows, it can be harder and harder to justify that two-door Jeep or little sports car that you and your spouse cruised in when it was just you two. You need something larger, and depending on the size of your family, that might have to be a minivan.

But fret not. Moving to a minivan is not the end of fun. The latest crop of minivans are some of the most well-equipped vehicles on the market today, featuring the latest entertainment and safety technologies to keep the kids occupied and safe on the long journeys. This includes features like lane departure warning, forward collision avoidance, and even blind spot monitoring, as well as a host of front and side impact airbags. There are plenty of entertainment features as well, including seat-back systems that have built-in games that the kids can play against each other. If the kids have their own devices, these vans come with plenty of USB and power outlets to keep those tablets and game units charged.

From cupholders to cubbies, there have never been more ways of storing all of the family’s gear. And when the seats themselves need storing, many of the offerings allow them to fold right into the load floor.

Some of the options in this market perform better than others, but each minivan has its own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your needs, there is a specific minivan thats right for you. And we’re gonna help you find it.


The Options

There are five options in the minivan segment. All of them are on the newer side, and the two most well known and best selling vans (Sienna and Odyssey) are among the oldest options. But the fact that there are newer options does not guarantee they are an improvement on those cornerstones of the market.

Chrysler Pacifica: The Newcomer

best minivan, minivan guide, 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus

The Pacifica has standout technology and the fantastic Stow & Go seating system. (Source: Chrysler)

This van replaces the aging Town & Country, and instantly brought Chrysler from the back of the pack to the front. Beauty is subjective, but this is arguably the most stylish van in the segment — inside and out. It also has some of the best technology, including seat back touchscreens for the kids that are pre-loaded with (educational) games. It has a built-in vacuum, and the second and third rows fold completely into the floor for the ultimate in cargo carrying.

Honda Odyssey: The Mainstay

best minivan, minivan shopping, honda odyssey

The Odyssey is as well-known as it is fashionable and comfortable. (Source: Honda)

One of the long mainstays in the segment, the Odyssey is well-equipped, drives very well for a minivan, and has features like a built-in vacuum. However the second row doesn’t fold into the floor. You’ll need to find a place to store it. And Honda’s dual-screen system for even basic controls is unintuitive and maddening.

Kia Sedona: The Bargain

best minivan, cheap minivan, 2016 kia Sedona SX Limited

The Sedona’s SUV-like styling is attainable, with the lowest base price in the segment. (Source: Kia)

The Sedona’s pricing simply puts it as the low-cost option within the market. Don’t let that be a deterrent alone, as the Sedona offers an SUV-like appearance and a quiet, luxurious interior. Though it’s not all rosy for the Sedona, the ride quality has been chided. Critics say the ride is uncomfortable, acceleration is sluggish on the highway, and the general handling has been described as clumsy. But is that enough for you to turn your back on a van with tons of standard features including Bluetooth connectivity and a rear-view camera?

Nissan Quest: Quirky, Expensive

best minivan, luxury minivan, 2016 Nissan Quest

The Quest starts out with a low base price, but goes up quickly when you start adding options. (Source: Nissan)

Not every minivan can play the same role in the market. The Quest almost caters to potential minivan buyers that don’t have the same space needs. Frankly, the cabin of the Quest is upscale to the point where this option is for the empty nest minivan buyer, using the van for road trips and driving with friends to dinner. It lacks the cargo space and seating capacity of some rivals, but its high-end interior cannot be denied.

Toyota Sienna: AWD Lux Van

best minivans, minivan shopping guide, sienna

The Sienna has available AWD and the largest cargo capacity in the class. (Source: Toyota)

The Sienna takes care of all occupants with spacious seating for all three rows. In addition to having an overall upscale interior, the Sienna has the largest cargo capacity for the class (150 cubic feet). The Sienna also offers available AWD, providing peace of mind when driving inclement conditions in the winter. And the Sienna offers some of the advanced safety features not offered in other models here. Along with the Odyssey and Pacifica, the Sienna is widely considered the class of the segment.


Things to Consider When Buying

There is so much more to consider when buying a minivan compared to the average commuter car. Space and cargo management, and high safety marks ensuring peace of mind when traveling with the kids. Each is a crucial attribute, and we’ll explore these sections in more depth.

How Safe/Reliable Is It?

Strong crash ratings are just as important as making you aren’t left stranded on the side of the road with your children.

Seating Dynamics

Is it easy to fold seats away for cargo space? Can the kids have their own space on long trips? Can you fit the entire soccer team when it’s your turn to carpool?

Cupholders and Cubbies

How many are there? Does the van have little cubbies for snacks, toys, and devices? It’s not just how many cupholders and cubbies that matters, but how clever they are. Automakers have been outdoing themselves finding innovative ways to store all your junk.

Which Minivan Has the Best Features?

And at the right price? What seems like a must-have feature could push you outside of your budget. What might be an optional feature on one van might be standard on another.

Which Minivan Has the Best Technology?

Keeping the kids occupied and keeping you on the right path with a navigation system are all important for long journeys. The latest crop of vans offer plenty of USB charging ports and even seat back entertainment systems with built-in games.


Which Minivan Has the Best Price/Features?

best minivan features

The controls layout of the Sienna is one of its strong points. (Source: Toyota)

One of the benefits of shopping minivans in 2016 is the quality of every entrant in the market. No matter which minivan you select, it will come standard with three rows, seven-passenger seating, power windows, sliding doors on both sides, and numerous storage solutions.

Chrysler Pacifica: $28,595-$42,495

One of the great optional features is the Uconnect Theater. Two 10-inch touch screens, built into the back of the front seats, provide second-row passengers with plenty of fun entertainment options. In addition to the obvious DVD/Blu-Ray playback, the system features an HDMI input, remote control and two pairs of headphones.

It also comes with built-in games like tic-tac-toe and checkers, but also educational games like the States Game. The two screens are networked, so the kids can play these games against each other. In the great game of keeping kids occupied on long trips, this could be the greatest breakthrough yet.

Trims Offered: LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, Touring Hybrid, Limited Hybrid

LX: (MSRP: $28,595) Stow & Go 2nd and 3rd rows, Stow & Go Driver’s Side power assist front seat, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, six-speaker stereo, 5-inch color screen, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, advanced multistage airbags, LATCH child seat anchor system, electronic parking brake, rear view camera, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system.
Touring: (MSRP $30,495, includes everything from LX, plus) Power sliding doors, automatic high beams, rear reading/courtesy lamps, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, remote keyless entry.
Touring-L: (MSRP $34,495, includes everything from Touring, plus) Leather seating, heated front seats, remote start, Blind-spot monitoring system, Park Sense Rear Parking assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Path Detection, universal garage door opener, manual second and third row shades
Touring-L Plus: (MSRP $37,895, includes everything from Touring-L, plus) Auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 115-volt wall-style power outlet, heated second row seats, Stow & Go assist one-button power sliding front passenger seat, heated steering wheel, “Super Console” with illuminated cupholders, Alpine 13-speaker premium stereo, 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen, Uconnect Theater screens, USB video port, 3rd row USB power port.
Limited: (MSRP $42,495, includes everything from Touring-L Plus, plus) Touring-tuned suspension, hands-free power sliding doors and liftgate, LED fog lamps, dual HID headlights, power folding, heated side mirrors, with integrated turn signals, and auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, three-pane panoramic moonroofs, premium leather trim seating, ventilated front seats, Stow & Vac integrated vacuum.
Touring Hybrid: (MSRP Price TBA) Regenerative braking, blacked-out grille with bright surround, cloth seats, six speaker stereo, 8.4-inch touch screen.
Limited Hybrid: (MSRP Price TBA, includes everything from Touring Hybrid, plus) Leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated second row, Park Sense semi-autonomous parking assistant, automatic high beams.


Kia Sedona: $26,400-$39,900

best minivan, 2017 Sedona

Leather seating, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, and navigation are all available on the Sedona. (Source: Kia)

With a starting price of $26,400, the Kia Sedona is the most affordable minivan in the segment. It comes with Bluetooth connectivity, backup camera, remote keyless entry, dual glove boxes, conversation mirror, Slide-N-Stow second row seats, and a lot more. Compare that to the Toyota Sienna ($29,750), Honda Odyssey ($29,550), Chrysler Pacifica ($28,595), and you start to see just how much the Sedona undercuts the competition. Only the Nissan Quest comes close in base price ($26,580), but the Sedona is a more complete van, and as you go up in trims on the Quest, the price climbs quickly.

Trims Offered: L, LX, EX, SX, SXL

L: (MSRP: $26,400) 17-inch alloy wheels, LED turn signals integrated into side mirrors, 4.3-inch touch screen audio system control, Bluetooth hands-free smartphone connectivity, USB/auxiliary inputs, backup camera, remote keyless entry, dual glove boxes, conversation mirror, Slide-N-Stow second row seats, 50/50 split-fold rear seats that stow away into the floor.
LX: (MSRP $28,500, includes everything from L, plus) Power folding side mirrors, tinted rear and side windows, integrated roof rails, 8-way power driver’s seat, 3-passenger second row (boosts seating capacity to 8).
EX: (MSRP $32,700, includes everything from LX, plus) Heated side mirrors, Solar-Control windows (reduces heat buildup), power liftgate with “hands-free/feet-free” auto-open, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, UVO eServices connectivity, two additional USB ports, backup sensor system, push-button start, tri-zone climate control, integrated 2nd and 3rd row sunshades, leather seating, heated front seats.
SX: (MSRP $26,400, includes everything from EX, plus) Infiniti premium sound system, voice-command navigation w/ 8-inch touch screen inc. SiriusXM Traffic, 115-volt wall-style outlet in center console, blind-spot detection system, rear cross-traffic alert, 8-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated second row seats,
SXL: (MSRP $39,900, includes everything from SX, plus) Dual power sunroof, projector beam fog lights, 19-inch alloy wheels, front/rear parking sensors, upgraded premium Nappa leather seating, second-row lounge seating, heated steering wheel.


Toyota Sienna: $29,750-$47,310

Taking the entire soccer team to a tournament an hour away can be a challenge. Especially if the most mischievous ones are way back in the third row. To wit, the Driver Easy Speak system is an intercom between the driver and the third row. If you need to do some remote parenting, you just push a button and speak!

Trims Offered: L, LE, SE, XLE, Limited

L: (MSRP: $29,750) 17-inch alloy wheels, Star Safety System, Entune Multimedia System, remote keyless entry, three-zone climate control, backup camera, blind-spot mirrors, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
LE: (MSRP $32,740, includes everything from L, plus) Navigation system, rear privacy glass, black roof rails, 18-inch wheels w/ run-flat tires (AWD model only), easy-clean seating, manual 2nd and 3rd row sunshades.
SE: (MSRP $36,110, includes everything from LE, plus) Front/rear lower spoilers, sport-look mesh grille, projector headlights, smoked sport-look head and taillight trims, 19-inch gunmetal finish alloy wheels, leather heated front seats, one-motion stow-away rear seat.
XLE: (MSRP $36,310, includes everything from SE, plus) Metallic front grille with chrome surround, leather second row captains chairs (AWD only), power windows with auto up/down, smart key system with push button start, fixed center console with illuminated storage compartment and illuminated front cupholders.
Limited: (MSRP $42,800-$47,310, includes everything from XLE, plus) Premium leather heated front seats, premium leather second and third row seating, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel with cruise/audio/Bluetooth controls, Safety Connect System.


Honda Odyssey: $29,550-$45,025

The SE and Touring Elite trims come standard with with HondaVAC, a built-in vacuum, which is great for spot-cleaning small spills of dry items. But parents know all too well that few spills are small, or dry. When dealing with a car full of kids, you’ll need to supplement the small vacuum with something more substantial in the garage. The Chrysler Pacifica also features a vacuum.

Trims Offered: LX, EX, SE, EX-L, Touring, Touring Elite

LX: (MSRP: $29,550) Bluetooth calling, Bluetooth streaming audio, i-MID 8-inch customizable screen, Pandora capability, SMS text function, USB audio interface, Remote entry, 12-volt power outlets (front row & cargo area), rear seat heater ducts, illuminated steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control.
EX: (MSRP $32,700, includes everything from LX, plus) Audio touch screen, HondaLink connectivity, multi-function second row center seat, Honda LaneWatch, power sliding doors, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat w/ power lumbar support, tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, wide-angle conversation mirror.
SE: (MSRP $33,650, includes everything from EX, plus) Rear seat entertainment entertainment system, 115-volt 3rd row power outlet, integrated vacuum, SiriusXM radio.
EX-L: (MSRP $36,200, includes everything from SE, plus) Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, one-touch power moonroof, power liftgate, chilled storage bin, leather seating, leather wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats.
Touring: (MSRP $42,455, includes everything from EX-L, plus) Fog lights, auto tilt-down side mirrors, acoustic windshield, ambient footwell lining, satellite-linked navigation system.
Touring Elite: (MSRP $45,025, includes everything from Touring, plus) 650-watt premium stereo with 12 speakers and subwoofer, HD radio, Honda DVD ultrawide rear entertainment system with HDMI technology.

Nissan Quest: $26,580-$43,230

The second row seat comfort on the Quest is unrivaled among minivans. (Source: Nissan)

The second row seat comfort on the Quest is unrivaled among minivans. (Source: Nissan)

Without a doubt, interior refinement is the Quest’s best attribute. Nissan goes for the quality-over-quantity approach with its minivan, offering high-grade materials, and plenty of standard and optional features. No matter what seat you’re in, the superior fit-and-finish is apparent. According to Edmunds, “Interior materials are the best you’ll find in a minivan, with the leather-appointed cabins in the range-topping trims feeling especially premium and luxurious.” Nissan is the parent company of luxury carmaker Infiniti, and based on the level of comfort and refinement in the Quest, it could arguably wear the badge of that luxury brand.

Trims Offered: S, SV, SL, Platinum

S: (MSRP: $26,580) Tire pressure monitoring system, Easy Fill Alert System, power rear lift gate, 6-way manual driver seat, 4-way manual power seat, second row reclining captain’s chairs, 60/40 split/fold third row bench with quick-release strap, auxiliary audio jack, remote keyless entry, 8 cupholders, 8 bottle holders, and push button start.
SV: (MSRP $30,540, includes everything from S, plus) Leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, power sliding doors, SiriusXM satellite radio, tri-zone climate controls, and backup camera.
SL: (MSRP $34,110, includes everything from SV, plus) 18-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seating, heated front seats, and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Platinum: (MSRP $43,230, includes everything from SL, plus) Side mirrors that tilt-down when reversing, power fold third-row seat, Bose sound system with 13 speakers including subwoofer, navigation system with real-time traffic and weather updates, DVD entertainment system, 360-degree monitor, rear audio controls with wireless headphone capability, second and third row sunshades, and blind-spot monitoring system.


Features Winners

Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
Winner: Kia Sedona
Winner: Toyota Sienna

Features Losers

Loser: Honda Odyssey (base model only, others are winners)
Loser: Nissan Quest (base model only, others are winners)


Which Minivan Is the Safest?

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The Kia Sedona is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. (Source: Kia)

The safety of a minivan is arguably its most important attribute. All of the vans on this list are capable of carrying the whole family around, along with all of its gear. And all of the vans here manage cargo and storage with varying degrees of success, but the key factor is how the van in question keeps your most precious cargo safe? It’s never as easy as saying “This Minivan is the Safest,” but rather looking at the various ways in which a minivan can protect everyone inside. The latest crop of minivans are more advanced than ever, and that’s no more true than when it comes to safety. But there are a lot of new terms before we even talk about which ones are the best:

Passive Safety

At its core, all of these vans have plenty of passive safety measures. This includes crash structures, crumple zones, and plenty of front and side impact airbags. These also include dual-stage airbags for improved safety. These vehicles also have sensors for the seats to know which airbags to deploy.

Active Safety

If you’ve noticed in cars in the last several years, many have “active safety” features. These are heightened awareness sensors that provide the driver with crucial alerts so that the airbags hopefully never have to go off in the first place. These features should not be looked at as a crutch, but rather key assistance for the driver in a world with more distractions than ever. Such active safety features include:

Forward Collision Warning/Avoidance

(Standard on: None | Option on: Odyssey, Pacifica, Sedona) This system uses forward-facing sensors to determine if a car, person, or object is approaching too quickly. You could be distracted and not looking directly ahead. If you are closing in on the object, it will alert the driver, which is called forward collision warning. If no action is taken, some systems can even automatically brake without need the driver’s input. This is called Forward Collision Avoidance.

Lane Departure Warning/Avoidance

(Standard on: None | Option on: Odyssey, Pacifica, Sedona ) The latest crop of minivans are larger than ever, and take up more of the traffic lane. When you reach back to break up the kids fighting, you might end up drifting out of your lane. Lane Departure Warning alerts you when you start to drift out of the lane. When the system alerts you and you don’t respond, some systems called Lane Departure Avoidance/Mitigation actually input steering changes to keep you in the lane.

Blind Spot Monitoring System

(Standard on: None | Option on: Odyssey, Pacifica, Quest, Sedona, Sienna, ) Minivans, by their very nature, will have blind spots. Though the side and rear windows are large, some of these vehicles have very large pillars between the windows for rollover protection. This results in blind spots, an many vehicles offer a suite of sensors that can tell if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This is also helpful for when knowing when it is clear to pass someone.

Honda also offers LaneWatch, which takes things a step further by offering a full-fledged camera for the passenger side, which activates every time you turn on the right turn signal:

Cameras: Backup and More

(Standard on: Odyssey, Pacifica, Sedona, Sienna | Option on: Quest) Pretty soon backup cameras will be standard in all vehicles, and some are better than others. Still some automakers offer an even better system– a series of wide angle cameras, installed on every side of the vehicle, and blended using software to deliver a 360-degree view of what’s around you. Given the way the camera is positioned, it appears that the monitor is coming from 20 feet above the vehicle, and is extremely helpful when parking in tight spaces.

These systems also work in tandem with small sensors to detect people and objects around the vehicle when backing up or pulling forward at low speeds.

Some vehicles with backup cameras and Blind Spot Detection, also use these sensors to determine if a vehicle is approaching while you are backing out of your driveway or a parking spot in a crowded lot. This is one of the most impressive features, because while others here assist where you can already sort of see, Rear Cross-Path Detection (Standard on: None | Option on: TBA) truly sees what the driver cannot. This system also detects pedestrians in some cases.

Crash Test Results

There are two major safety organizations that test road cars and publish scores. They are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA scores vehicles out of five stars, while the IIHS scores on a scale of Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, and Good. Additionally, the IIHS offers “Top Safety Pick” recommendations, as well as “Top Safety Pick +” for vehicles with advanced crash avoidance and mitigation features.

NHTSA Crash Test Data

 Minivan  NHTSA Overall Rating
 Honda Odyssey  5/5 Stars
 Kia Sedona  5/5 Stars
 Toyota Sienna  5/5 Stars
 Chrysler Pacifica  Not Rated
 Nissan Quest  Not Rated

The Odyssey, Sedona, and Sienna are all five-star safety-rated minivans by NHTSA. Neither the Pacifica, nor the Quest, have been tested by NHTSA.

IIHS Testing Awards

Minivan Accolade
Chrysler Pacifica Top Safety Pick+
Honda Odyssey Top Safety Pick
Kia Sedona Top Safety Pick

Reliability Data

Overall Quality J.D. Power Score
 Honda Odyssey  2/5
 Toyota Sienna  2.5
Nissan Quest*  2/5
 Kia Sedona  2/5
 Chrysler Pacifica  N/A

Predicted Reliability J.D. Power Score
 Toyota Sienna  5/5
 Nissan Quest*  5/5
 Honda Odyssey  2/5
 Kia Sedona  2/5
 Chrysler Pacifica N/A

*2015 Nissan Quest data. 2016 Nissan Quest reliability data not available.

The Safest Bet?

Once it has been tested by NHTSA, the Chrysler Pacifica could likely be the safest minivan in this category, but it is replacing the Town & Country, which had one of the worst safety ratings NHTSA has ever seen. For now, the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona are all tied for first place in safety, all earning Top Safety Pick accolades from the IIHS, with scores of Good across the board from the Odyssey and Sedona. The Sienna earned a score of Good for every test, except for small frontal overlap, where it scored Acceptable.

As for safety tech, the Pacifica is the most advanced, with front crash mitigation. The Sienna has this as well, while the Odyssey and Sedona have front collision warning, but lack the autonomous braking.

So really, from a safety standpoint, you can’t go wrong with any minivan, as long as it’s not the Quest, which has marginal safety scores, and doesn’t even have NHTSA crash safety scores.

Safety Winners

Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
Winner: Honda Odyssey
Winner: Kia Sedona
Winner: Toyota Sienna

Safety Losers

Loser: Nissan Quest


Which Minivan Has the Best Seating/Cargo?

best minivan, minivan cargo comparison

The Sienna’s second row captain’s chairs can slide for added legroom. (Source: Toyota)

Every minivan in this segment features at least seven seats. The layout for all consists of two front row captain’s chairs, two second row seats, and a three-passenger third row bench. For many that will be enough, but for some, more room is needed. If that is the case, all but the Quest offer an 8-passenger option, swapping out the individual second row seats for a second row bench.

But seating capacity is just the tip of the iceberg. How the seats are managed, how they move and how they stow for cargo is just as important as the capacity number itself.

Capacity and Layout

Chrysler Pacifica:
Cargo Capacity cu. ft. (behind 3rd row/2nd row/max): 32.3 / 87.5 / 140.5
•7 passenger seating (all trims), 8-passenger optional
•Second and third row stow-n-go seats. Completely fold away.
•Touring L Plus and up trims, power fold away.
•Touring: Second row captains chairs (capacity 7).
•Heated second row (Touring-L Plus, Limited)

Toyota Sienna:
Cargo Capacity (behind 3rd row/2nd row/max): 39.1 / 87.1 / 150.0
•Standard 7-passenger, optional 8-passenger (SE, LX AWD-only, XLE AWD-only)
•Foldaway third row seats
•Manual second/third-row sunshades (LE)
•Leather-trimmed second row lounge-style captains chairs (Limited)

Honda Odyssey:
Cargo Capacity (behind 3rd row/2nd row/max): 38.4 / 93.1 / 148.5
•7-pass standard (LX), 8-passenger seating (std EX and up)
•Wide-mode second row seats, spread outward to place a bit of space between the kids
•Optional multi-function, removable second row center seat seat (EX and up)
•Leather seating (EX-L and up)
•Power-folding one-touch 3rd row (standard)

Kia Sedona:
Cargo Capacity (behind 3rd row/2nd row/max): 33.9 / 78.4 / 142.0
•7-pass standard. 8-pass (LX, EX)
•Second row heated (std: SX, Opt: EX, SXL)
•Second/third row sunshades (std: EX, SX, SXL, Opt: LX)

Nissan Quest:
Cargo Capacity (behind 3rd row/2nd row/max): 37.1 / 63.6 / 108.4
•Second row reclining, adjustable captains chairs (std)
•Quick-release third row (std)
•Power up/down third row (Platinum)

Foldaway and Cargo

Chrysler Pacifica:
•Cargo, behind third row: 32.3
•Cargo, behind second row: 87.5
•Cargo behind all rows: 140.5
•Second and third row stow-n-go seats. Completely fold away. Touring L Plus and up trims, power fold away.
•Center of second row has to be stored, but much easier and one person can

Honda Odyssey:
•Cargo, behind third row: 38.4
•Cargo, behind second row: 93.1
•Cargo behind all rows: 148.5
•Third row folds away, second row does not.
•You need to remove second row

Kia Sedona:
•Cargo, behind third row: 33.9
•Cargo, behind second row: 78.4
•Cargo behind all rows: 142.0
•Second row “slide n stow,” don’t fold all the way away
•Third row folds all the way away

Nissan Quest:
•Cargo, behind third row: 25.7
•Cargo, behind second row: 63.6
•Cargo behind all rows: 108.4
•All rows fold “down,” but not into floor. You have a flat load floor, but total cargo cut down.
•All seats are fixed. Cannot remove any row.

Seating/Cargo Winners

Winner: Toyota Sienna (most cargo space)
Winner: Chrysler Pacifica (most innovative)
Winner: Honda Odyssey (second most cargo space)

Seating/Cargo Losers

Loser: Nissan Quest


Cupholders, Cubbies and Compartments

Toyota sienna, best minivans

Source: Toyota

Pacifica:

Cupholders, Std: 13
Cupholders, Opt: N/A
Cubbies, and Compartments Std: Front floor tray, lower instrument panel cubby
Cubbies, and Compartments Opt: Super console w/ illuminated cupholders (Touring-L Plus, Limited)

Sedona:

Cupholders, Std: 12 (plus front/rear door bottle holders)
Cupholders, Opt: N/A
Cubbies, and Compartments Std: Dual glove boxes, center console armrest compartment,
Cubbies, and Compartments Opt: Second row large sliding tray w/ lamp, sunglasses holder (SXL only)

Sienna:

Cupholders, Std: 6
Cupholders, Opt: 10
Cubbies, and Compartments Std: Dual glove compartments
Cubbies, and Compartments Opt: Fixed center console w/ illuminated storage compartments (LE and up), Sliding front center console (Limited, Limited Premium)

Odyssey:

Cupholders, Std: 7
Cupholders, Opt: N/A
Cubbies, and Compartments Std: Front center floor tray w/ beverage holders, center stack utility tray, rear storage well, center stack lower storage bin,
Cubbies, and Compartments Opt: Removable front center console (EX and up), seat back pockets (EX and up)

Quest:

Cupholders, Std: 8 (8 bottle holders)
Cupholders, Opt: N/A
Cubbies, and Compartments Std: Front center console w/ built-in cupholders, removable second row console, front door map pockets
Cubbies, and Compartments Opt: Overhead console (SL, Platinum),

Space Management Winners

Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
Winner: Honda Odyssey
Winner: Toyota Sienna

Space Management Losers

Loser: Kia Sedona
Loser: Nissan Quest


Which Minivan Drives and Handles the Best?

minivan performance, best minivans

The Sienna offers something that no other minivan can claim; all-wheel drive. (Source: Toyota)

All minivans here share the same formula: V6, sending power through some kind of automatic transmission to the front wheels (or available AWD in the case of the Sienna). But that’s where the similarities start to fall off, as some vans here have quite competent handling characteristics, while others have handling that’s downright clumsy.

Chrysler Pacifica: The “Driver’s Minivan”


Acceleration: The Pacifica features Chrysler’s venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This competent engine delivers power and fuel efficiency, and is paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission, sending power to the front wheels. In the past, the 9-speed has been known for less-than-smooth shifts and not putting the engine in the ideal PRM. But as The Car Connection put it, “Acceleration is smart and the shifts are pretty crisp—the Pacifica has much less of the 9-speed clunks we’ve experienced in other Chrysler vehicles.”

Handling: The Pacifica’s chassis setup and handling are precise and responsive. As U.S. News & World Report puts it, the Pacifica, “Defies most minivan stereotypes by providing engaging handling on winding back roads and through all kinds of curves.” The Pacifica Limited trim has a special chassis setup that makes it even more fun to drive. A fun-to-drive minivan? It almost doesn’t seem possible!

Toyota Sienna: More Powerful, More Efficient, So-So Handling


Acceleration: The updated 3.5-liter V6 makes 296 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. That’s an impressive increase of 30 hp and 18 lb.-ft. over the outgoing 2016 engine. The engine is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 6-speed unit. The engine in the 2016-and-older models was often cited as being loud when pushed, but the added power means it won’t have to work as hard, and the added gears in the transmission will help the engine stay in its sweet spot.

Despite the promise of being smoother, there is a setback, according to a Car and Driver review: “Unfortunately, Toyota has quite obviously retarded throttle response to reduce the possibility of bumps causing small, unintended throttle applications. You can tap the throttle and nothing will happen; only if you hold it down long enough for the car to recognize you’re serious will an actual reaction occur. It can irritate.”

Handling: Not many have driven the 2017 model, but despite the engine and transmission upgrades, it is expected that the suspension and brakes will carry over. The suspension was just OK enough, with Motor Trend admitting, “We didn’t love that the 2015 Sienna had mushy brakes and a rough ride around town.” Some called the steering “overboosted,” though many drivers might appreciated how that translates into putting less effort into steering inputs.

If you really want a “racier” feel from your minivan you should probably consult a BMW station wagon. But if you must get it in minivan form, the SE trim has tighter suspension and steering. Some might find this enjoyable, but at the possible expense of everyone who is not driving. As Car and Driver humorously put it, “Only one in 10 Sienna buyers opts for the SE—it’s definitely worth a back-to-back test drive.”

Kia Sedona: Mixed Results on the Road

best minivan

The Sedona feels great in some driving conditions, but not all of them. (Source: Kia)

Acceleration: Getting up to those highway speeds it a bit of an issue, though. Around town, the V6 does a solid job getting the Sedona up to speed. As KBB.com puts it, “there’s no hesitation in the engine’s throttle response, and the operation of the minivan’s 6-speed automatic transmission is generally seamless.” But when you need to get up to highway speed or make a pass in the fast lane, things start to falter. Highway acceleration is not as swift as one might think when compared to how well it moves around town.

So you have a strange combination of attributes. Around town, acceleration is strong, but ride quality is marginal, and on the highway, the ride quality is terrific, but acceleration suffers. Depending on how and where you drive, these inconsistencies could either play a small role or be a big issue.

Handling: It seems that there is a lot of help from the power steering, which does not always translate into good handling. According to Car and Driver, “The steering is light and the van is remarkably maneuverable thanks to the 36.8-foot turning circle.” But U.S. News & World Report says, “The Sedona handles corners poorly, even for a minivan.”

The ride quality varies depending on where you are driving. Around town, the Sedona has a somewhat bumpy ride that becomes more noticeable from the rear seats. As you get on the highway, this smooths out, and the Sedona becomes a much better cruiser at high speeds.

Honda Odyssey: The Minivan That Drives Like a Car


Acceleration: The engine of the Odyssey makes 248 horsepower, which may not seem like much for a vehicle that has to carry around 8 occupants and all their gear, but the V6 in the Odyssey does the job well. According to KBB, the Odyssey, “Never feels strained or overburdened, even with a full complement aboard.”

All Honda Odyssey 2016 Models come with a strong enough engine to tow as much as 3,500 pounds, which is enough for a small boat or camping trailer. And with traction control and other safety traction gear, the front-wheel-drive Odyssey can manage tricky footing.

Handling: The Odyssey is not available with all-wheel drive. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, AWD is available on the Toyota Sienna and will be in the future on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
Handling: As minivans go, the Odyssey is one of the smoother-driving options. According to CarGurus, “Handling in a minivan can be awkward, almost truck-like, but not with the Odyssey. It falls somewhere between an SUV like the Pilot and a sedan like the Accord, leaning more toward a sedan.” This car-like ride should inspire a great deal of confidence.

Nissan Quest: Strong Acceleration, Mixed Handling Reviews


Acceleration: Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 makes 260 horsepower. It send power to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. This type of transmission is essentially one variable-ratio gear. In the past, the CVT hasn’t made for a good acceleration feel, but Nissan has tuned in this CVT well, and as Car and Driver puts it, “The Quest’s V-6 mates surprisingly well with its standard CVT.” Acceleration is strong, and fuel economy is great for the class, but the lack of gear-changing is a strange sensation for some folks. Nissan has endowed the CVT with “steps” to simulate gear changes, but it still isn’t the same feel you might be used to if you’re coming out of a car with a traditional multi-speed automatic transmission.

Handling: “Numb” has been one of the ways the Quest’s steering has been described. As KBB.com puts it, “The luxury-car-inspired interior feels like it carries over into the steering and suspension, neither of which is as sharp as we’d expect in a Nissan.” Nissan doubled down on the soft ride in the Quest. That means a really light steering feel, but the suspension also soaks up plenty of bumps on the road. Cornering isn’t that inspired, but considering you’ll be driving with a gaggle of kids in the back, this

Driving Winners

Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
Winner: Honda Odyssey

Driving Losers

Loser: Kia Sedona
Loser: Nissan Quest
Loser: Toyota Sienna


Which Minivan Has the Best Fuel Economy?

Layout of the Pacifica Hybrid powertrain. (Source: FCA)

Layout of the Pacifica Hybrid powertrain. (Source: FCA)

Every minivan is offered with a V6 engine, sending power to the front wheels. Most send it through an automatic transmission, while the Nissan Quest offers a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This certainly helps it get better fuel economy. Also, as expected, the AWD Sienna is the least efficient vehicle, but a worthy tradeoff for its all-weather handling.

 Minivan  MPG (City/Highway/Combined)
 Chrysler Pacifica  18 / 28 / 22
 Nissan Quest  20 / 27 / 22
 Honda Odyssey  19 / 27 / 22
 Toyota Sienna (FWD)  19 / 27 / 22
 Kia Sedona  18 / 24 / 20
Toyota Sienna (AWD)  18 / 24 / 20

All minivans hover around 18-20 MPG in the city, and 24-28 MPG on the highway. The combined MPG spread of just 2 MPG across the lineup shows how close these vans perform in real-world driving.

That said, Chrysler has an ace-in-the-hole; the Pacifica Hybrid. It’s due out in the next few months (Chrysler is pretty scant on release date), and is claimed at 80 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). It can also travel up to 30 miles on electric-only power before the engine kicks on (when fully charged). The EPA numbers are not official yet, but when the Pacifica Hybrid goes on sale, and the EPA numbers are posted, it will be the runaway winner for fuel economy.


Which Minivan Has the Best Technology?

best minivan, chrysler minivan

Source: Chrysler

Infotainment, or, the combination of navigation, entertainment, and other vehicle functions comprised in the touch screen, has developed tremendously in the last five years. Heck, it barely existed ten years ago. With that in mind, the spread of age of designs for the vans in this segment range from brand new, to a couple years old, to six-to-seven years old. It would stand to reason that the newer the van, the better the infotainment, and to a large degree, that holds true. But for one automaker (Honda), their infotainment update just a couple years ago, left its van in a worse spot.

Chrysler Pacifica: The Gold Standard


The Pacifica features Uconnect, which is one of the best infotainment systems on the market. The large 8.3-inch touch screen features a tablet-like layout, with home buttons at the bottom of the screen, as well as customizable icons that you can drag around the screen. The screen itself is vivid and easy to read. Uconnect is an example for other on automakers on how to do infotainment right.

One of the great optional features is the Uconnect Theater. Comprised of two 10-inch touch screens built into the back of the front seats, they provide second row passengers with plenty of fun entertainment options. In addition to the obvious DVD/Blu-Ray playback, it features an HDMI input, remote control and two pair of headphones.

It also comes with built-in games like tic-tac-toe and checkers, but also educational games like the States Game. The two screens are networked, so the kids can play these games against each other. In the great game of keeping kids occupied on long trips, this could be the greatest breakthrough yet.

Kia Sedona: Simple and Easy to Use


Kia’s available UVO infotainment is among the best and easiest to use in the industry. From the standard Bluetooth hands-free connectivity to the touch screen functionality on LX-and-up trims, we were really pleased with how simple the system is to use. It features a smartphone-like layout, and has Siri EyesFree support for iPhone users.

There are also available enhanced services, like the ability to find your car in a garage on your smartphone, or plan trips on your computer at home and port it into the system. There is also Yelp and Google search functionality built into the navigation system to help find everything you need while on the road. The gold standard for ease-of-use is Chrysler’s Uconnect system, but the UVO is a close second, and well ahead of the frustrating infotainment tech in the Honda Odyssey.

Toyota Sienna: Decent, but No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

best minivan, minivan tech

Buyers are asking for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but you won’t find either in a Toyota. (Source: Apple)

Toyota offers solid infotainment and connectivity through its Entune suite of features, including available navigation, real time traffic and weather updates, and apps for items like Yelp, OpenTable, and Pandora. Toyota is so confident in its connected features, that it’s opting to not include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That is a pretty big omission. In a time when drivers are more loyal to their mobile device maker than their are their automaker, this could see a lot of minivan buyers going to vehicles that DO deliver such features…like the Chrysler Pacifica.

Odyssey: Honda Needs a Do-Over

best minivan, minivan infotainment, 2015 Honda Odyssey.

2015 Honda Odyssey.

The bar is pretty high for infotainment systems in this segment, and that has everything to do with the efforts by each van’s parent automaker to built easy-to-use touch screens. Well if an automaker can make a van on infotainment system, an automaker can break one on it too. HondaLink infotainment is not only behind the competition, it’s downright frustrating.

A Consumer Reports roundup on infotainment systems puts HondaLink on the bottom end of “Average” infotainment systems — and within a stone’s throw of “Back to the Drawing Board.” Their research was based on consumer surveys as well as hands-on testing. According to the report, “Our tests found the onscreen buttons and menus to be unintuitive.” That’s putting it lightly.

Quest: Easy to Use Controls, with Real Button Backups

best minivan

The Nissan Quest’s touch screen system has a simple layout and real-live buttons to fall back on. (Source: Nissan)

The Quest has an available touch screen infotainment system. It has logical menu layouts, and more importantly, has tactile, real-live buttons to fall back to if you get lost. This means minimal distractions when trying to do things like change the channel. The only knock on this this system, is the layout of the actual radio controls, which are below the climate controls and the bottom of the center stack. However, the driver can use the steering wheel-mounted audio controls to get around that.

Technology Winners

Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
Winner: Kia Sedona
Winner: Nissan Quest

Technology Losers

Loser: Honda Odyssey
Loser: Toyota Sienna


Finding the Best Minivan for You

best minivan

Source: Honda

Here’s what it comes down to: No single van is a magic bullet will be the answer for all your needs. Some owners will want the best technology, some will want the most seating, and others the most cargo. Below are the best vans for you, based on your needs.

If You Are on a Budget: Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest*

The Sedona has the lowest base price in this segment, and even well equipped trims of the Sedona cost less than comparably equipped rivals. This, of course, comes at a price, as the Sedona has questionable ride and handling, and the fit-and-finish falls behind the competition. It also has the second-least cargo space in the segment.

The Nissan Quest has the next most affordable base price, but as you work your way up through the trims, *the price jumps quickly.

If Technology Is a Priority: Chrysler Pacifica

Be it navigation, entertainment or safety, the Chrysler Pacifica delivers some of the best in the business, and why not? As the newest entrant in the minivan segment, it should have the newest technology. In addition to forward collision warning, lane departure, and blind spot warnings systems, it has powerful and easy-to-use front touchscreen system.

The best feature is the available Uconnect Theater, which is comprised of two seat back touch screens. These screens are Blu-Ray/DVD-capable, and are pre-loaded with a number of games, like tic-tac-toe, and the States Game. Most importantly, the screens are networked, so the little ones can play games against each other–a perfect distraction on long trips.

If You Have a Lot of Kids: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

Or, more likely, you are often carting around everyone else’s kids too. The Sienna, like most of the competition, is standard with 7-passenger seating, but is available with a second row bench, raising capacity to 8. Interestingly enough, the lower quality fit-and-finish are such that it can take a beating from a soccer team on a long road trip.

If Fuel Economy Is a Priority: Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna

The front-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna has the best posted fuel economy of the bunch, returning 19/27/22 MPG (city/highway/combined). The Pacifica is close behind, with 18/28/22 MPG (city/highway/combined). In a sense, they share the top spot, and you can take your pick based on whether you’ll do more driving on the city or the highway. It should be noted that the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is expected to return 80 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and can go as much as 30 miles on electric-only power.

If Cargo Room Is a Priority: Toyota Sienna

The numbers don’t lie: The Toyota Sienna has the most cargo space possible, ad 150 cubic feet. Granted, you have to remove the second row, which can be a clumsy affair, but it provides access to more cargo space than any other van here. If you need cargo space above all else, the Sienna is hard to beat.


Minivan Winners and Losers: The Final Tallies

In order to get a better sense of how the minivans stack up directly, we’ve brought in the individual Dealmakers and Dealbreakers found in each minivan’s individual buying guide page. Here you’ll find, in simple terms, what each van does well, and what it does poorly. We give each one of these accolades a simple +1 or -1 associated with it, add up all the good and the bad, and come up with our simple “Final Tally.” Below, you can see these tallies, ranked from first to worst.

Chrysler Pacifica: Final Tally

The newcomer Chrysler Pacifica has so many things going for it. We have to make it our pick.

The newcomer Chrysler Pacifica has so many things going for it. (Source: Chrysler)

Dealmaker: Clever, useful Stow & Go seating
Dealmaker: Newest minivan in the market
Dealmaker: Strong acceleration & sharp handling
Dealmaker: Solid fuel economy
Dealmaker: Only minivan offered as a hybrid
Dealmaker: Innovative hands-free sliding doors & liftgate
Dealmaker: Tons of standard & optional features
Dealmaker: Advanced safety technology
Dealmaker: Unrivaled rear-seat entertainment system

Dealbreaker: Lagging rear seat comfort
Dealbreaker: Hybrid looses Stow & Go second row
Dealbreaker: No AWD…(yet)
Dealbreaker: Pricey with options

Pacifica Final Tally: +5


Honda Odyssey: Final Tally

The Odyssey has a frustrating infotainment system, but gets a lot of other things rights. (Source: Honda)

The Odyssey has a frustrating infotainment system, but gets a lot of other things rights. (Source: Honda)

Dealmaker: Standard backup camera, Available Honda LaneWatch blind spot camera
Dealmaker: Refined interior, lots of standard features
Dealmaker: Seating for 8 with tons of cubbies and space management, including 14 cupholders, and the “conversation mirror”
Dealmaker: Drives and handles like a car
Dealmaker: IIHS Top Safety Pick
Dealmaker: Available power sliding doors with driver’s seat controls
Dealmaker: Available DVD entertainment with remote and headsets
Dealmaker: Available built-in rear vacuum

Dealbreaker: Frustrating dual-screen controls
Dealbreaker: Second row seat doesn’t fold into floor
Dealbreaker: Steep price for top features
Dealbreaker: No available AWD

Final Tally: +4


Kia Sedona: Final Tally

Despite its sharp styling and affordability, the Sedona is not without its faults. (Source: Kia)

Despite its sharp styling and affordability, the Sedona is not without its faults. (Source: Kia)

Dealmaker: Smooth ride on highways/long trips
Dealmaker: SUV-like appearance
Dealmaker: Well-Equipped
Dealmaker: Least expensive minivan
Dealmaker: Quiet cabin
Dealmaker: Hands-free/feet-free Smart Lifgate
Dealmaker: Luxury second-row captains chairs
Dealmaker: Easy-to-use infotainment
Dealmaker: IIHS Top Safety Pick

Dealbreaker: Heavy, poor fuel economy numbers
Dealbreaker: No AWD
Dealbreaker: Second row not removable
Dealbreaker: Rough handling around town
Dealbreaker: Newer options in minivan market
Tossup: Mixed acceleration results

Final Tally: +3.5


Toyota Sienna Final Tally

Despite its sharp styling and affordability, the Sedona is not without its faults. (Source: Kia)

Despite its sharp styling and affordability, the Sedona is not without its faults. (Source: Kia)

Dealmaker: Easy-to-use control layout
Dealmaker: Improved power and fuel economy
Dealmaker: Class-leading cargo space
Dealmaker: 2nd row seats slide forward for cargo, or slide back for legroom
Dealmaker: Intercom between first and third rows
Dealmaker: Advanced active safety features
Dealmaker: Excellent mechanical reliability
Dealmaker: Blu-Ray DVD Entertainment System (Optional)(half-maker)

Dealbreaker: Second row doesn’t fold into floor
Dealbreaker: Only one USB port
Dealbreaker: No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support
Dealbreaker: Replacement coming in 2018

Final Tally: +3.5


Nissan Quest Final Tally

The Quest might be the right minivan for some buyers, but lacks serious cargo space or an 8-passenger option. (Source: Nissan)

The Quest might be the right minivan for some buyers, but lacks serious cargo space or an 8-passenger option. (Source: Nissan)

Dealmaker: Luxurious interior with high quality materials
Dealmaker: Affordable starting price
Dealmaker: Unique design
Dealmaker: Good steering feel
Dealmaker: Good fuel economy
Dealmaker: Strong acceleration
Dealmaker: Easy fill alert system

Dealbreaker: Smallest cargo space in class
Dealbreaker: Lacks latest safety technology
Dealbreaker: No all-wheel drive
Dealbreaker: Confusing audio layout

Final Tally: +3

Least Recommended: Nissan Quest

The Nissan Quest offers a lot, but is among seriously strong competeition. (Source: Nissan)

The Nissan Quest offers a lot, but is among seriously strong competeition. (Source: Nissan)

Even as the least-recommended minivan in this segment, the Quest is still a competent and viable option. It has a comfortable, well-appointed interior, and features head-turning styling. But its total cargo space falls well short of the rest of the pack, the seats don’t remove, and you can’t get an 8-passenger option. Combine this with just how good the competition is, and you can see how a minivan that is a solid option on its own can be at the back of the pack.


Seriously Consider:

Toyota Sienna – Honda Odyssey – Toyota Sedona

Our Must-Have Pick: Chrysler Pacifica

The new design, new infotainment and safety technology, and Stow & Go seating make the Chrysler Pacifica our favorite minivan. (Source: Chrysler)

The new design, new infotainment and safety technology, and Stow & Go seating make the Chrysler Pacifica our favorite minivan. (Source: Chrysler)

The Pacifica has the most amount of “Dealmakers” going for it, and few, if any “Dealbreakers.” It has sharp styling, impressive cargo management, and the latest technology available in the segment today. But you can’t go wrong some of the runner-ups either. The Sedona, Sienna and Odyssey are all extremely competent vans, and each have their own charms. But top-to-bottom, we gotta go with the Pacifica.

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