In the past, nearly every automaker sold a minivan in the USA – but now?
Automakers like Hyundai, Nissan, Mazda, Volkswagen and General Motors are out of the family minivan game in the United States. Sure, you could say that the Ford Transit Connect sort of competes in the minivan world, but it’s a bit more industrial. I think it’s more of a shuttle, than a family vehicle. That leaves Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and Kia – as the only automakers to sell a family-friendly minivan in the USA.
The case for the minivan
Ever since the 1950’s, when the Type 2 Volkswagen Bus was imported into the United States, the idea for a small box that can easily haul humans seemed logical. Despite this, it took years before we built our own. Chrysler dominated the market with their new minivan in the mid-80s. They were dominant in the segment for years.
One thing that makes minivans so useful is simple – UTILITY. Seriously, with the right setup, they are the most utilitarian vehicles on the planet. Remember – it’s a box with wheels, the most efficient shape to move people and cargo. On top of that, they are a snap to drive and tend to be more comfortable than an SUV.
Right now, you can get a hybrid Toyota Sienna (with or without all-wheel drive), a Honda Odyssey – with a beefy V6, or a similarly setup Kia Sedona (which will soon be renamed “Carnival”). Finally, there’s Chrysler and their Pacifica. They offer a PHEV front-wheel drive minivan, and an AWD naturally aspirated V6 minivan.
Here’s how they stack up
Chrysler: Technically, Chrysler has three minivan variants. The Chrysler Voyager is their entry-level minivan that comes in with a $26,985 base price. It’s a “no frills” minivan. The newest entry from FCA/Stellantis is the 2021 Pacifica which has two drive-trains. The base model FWD starts at $35,045 and the AWD model adds nearly $3,000. A base model Chrysler Pacifica PHEV starts at $39,995
While Chrysler does offer that plug-in hybrid version of their van, it cannot be combined with AWD. It’s either one or the other – or, just a front-wheel drive van with a V6.
Honda: There is (currently) one powertrain offered in the Honda Odyssey, and it’s a V6. Base prices start at $32,090. While we hear rumors about an upcoming hybrid, nothing has been confirmed. Fortunately, we can attest that the 280 horsepower V6 is outstanding.
Kia: The 2021 Kia Sedona is still offering a solid van for the money. Its base price of $30,400 is mid-pack, as is its powertrain and efficiency. Its replacement, the 2022 Kia Carnival will be slightly more efficient and more powerful as well.
Toyota: Toyota’s new 2021 Sienna offers one of the most comprehensive standard minivan powertrains in the business. With a base price of $34,460 – you pay a lot, but you get a minivan with a standard hybrid system. If you opt for the mid to upper trim models and add $2,000 – you can get AWD.
Is there a future for minivans in our country?
Listen, you can’t make a minivan sexy to a gearhead. No minivan can out-do the allure of a “go-anywhere” SUV, nor can it give the cool vibe of a snazzy crossover. Still, it is one of the more practical vehicles out there, and modern ones are finally becoming more efficient. Other than a giant SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban, you will be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable way to move several passengers.
The minivan is evolving. More EV and hybrid minivans are expected here in the near future. With new companies like Canoo building semi-autonomous minivans to shuttle us around, it looks like the death-note of the minivan has yet to be sounded.