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dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/17/16 6:42 a.m.

I have been doing lots of car shopping for the last couple of months and after some thought I have come to the conclusion that a Mini Van is really the vehicle that would be the best all around vehicle for me.

The issue is I really know nothing about them.

What I really want is one that drives like a car and not like a van or truck. Beyond that a bit of performance is always nice. Small is ok as I would be putting ladders on the roof now and then.

I have looked at wagons and they are a possible option but I seems that a small mini van has a lower floor and or higher interior space making them more useful.

Lastly are there any that I should just pass over due to reliability or known issues. ( think early Honda with there transmission problems)

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
6/17/16 6:47 a.m.

We had a Caravan until my son totaled it. It was replaced with a Chevy Venture. The Venture was a much nicer vehicle. More power, better handling, just better all around. It did eat two sets of intake gaskets over 260k miles, but I'd still rather have the Venture over the Caravan.

On the bus trip, we rented a Town and Country. It was a complete piece of crap. I can't imagine a worse driving and riding vehicle.

That's my take.

Klayfish
Klayfish UberDork
6/17/16 7:02 a.m.

Minivans all drive like big cars, that's one of the appeals to them. We've had a minivan for 10 years straight now, and wouldn't be without one.

If you want small, the Mazda5 is about the only game in town for a tiny minivan. They're awesome, I'd love to have one, and have shopped it several times. But for a family of 5, it's just too small.

One debate you'll have to settle for yourself is the Stow-N-Go trick that the Chrysler vans have. That's where the middle captains chairs can fold flat into the floor. They're the only vans that have that feature. The other vans have removable chairs, but you have to take them out physically. That really comes down to how often will you need the center captains chairs out of your way? For us, if we do that once a year, it's a lot, so the Stow-n-Go is nearly useless to us. The third row folds down flat in all minivans...we use that a ton. With the third row folded (it's a split fold, 2/3 and 1/3), our van can carry anything we need it to, even with the middle captains chairs. If you're going to carry plywood or other really huge things, then look at the Stow-n-Go.

As for performance, they all have pretty beefy V6s. They're quick for their size. None of them will handle like a sports car, but they're good enough to not be lumbering bafoons like big SUVs.

Reliability? Most of them are pretty solidly built, as they're designed to haul families around everywhere. I think Honda and Toyota are still the class of the field if money is no object. However, I'm so big into bang for the buck and to me the Kia Sedona is the hands down champ. That's the only minivan we've ever owned and it's been flawless through incredible amounts of hard use and abuse. I've towed race cars, landscape trailers and just generally beaten the snot out of them. Heck, I used to attach our landscape trailer, let my kids get in the trailer (it had 3' tall wood sides) and drive them all over our really bumpy 3.5 acre property. Never missed a beat. The newest Sedona has crept up in price so it's not as much of a bargain as it once was, but you can pick up a lightly used previous generation which ran up to '13 I think for $10-$12k.

DrBoost
DrBoost UltimaDork
6/17/16 8:05 a.m.

I've owned both the big dogs in the market, Grand Caravan and Honda. Here's My take On the matter.
In a nutshell, the Odyssey is simply THE MOST over-hyped vehicle I've ever experienced. Just this morning I was cursing the engineers for the STUPID, oddly shaped cargo load hole shape. Stupid, stupid, assinine!!

rslifkin
rslifkin HalfDork
6/17/16 8:06 a.m.

The problem with minivans being like big cars is that they're horribly underbuilt. Sienna? It's a Camry platform with Camry-sized trans, suspension, etc. Weight carrying capacity kinda sucks too on most of them. By the time you fill all the seats with average size people, you're already pushing the max rated payload. Think how often you see a minivan loaded up with a family and some stuff that's clearly riding on the rear bumpstops...

Because of the whole FWD and low weight capacity thing, IMO, they're useless for towing too. I cringe every time I see one with a trailer of any kind on the back (especially considering they're almost always bottomed out in the rear from the tongue weight).

Personally, outside of a few like the R-class, the old Previa and others that weren't just an inflated car in their design, I hate the things. I'd much rather have a vehicle that's actually capable than one that just pretends to be.

Johnboyjjb
Johnboyjjb Reader
6/17/16 8:37 a.m.

My vanpool has a 2015 caravan with 50k miles. It has had door innards replaced. The transmission is starting to fail. And we are on our third set of tires and brakes. Not a fan.

My Ody at home doesn't shift smoothly but at 160k miles it still works just fine.

Planned future purchases are either a suburban or an AWD Sienna.

Klayfish
Klayfish UberDork
6/17/16 8:50 a.m.
rslifkin wrote: The problem with minivans being like big cars is that they're horribly underbuilt. Sienna? It's a Camry platform with Camry-sized trans, suspension, etc. Weight carrying capacity kinda sucks too on most of them. By the time you fill all the seats with average size people, you're already pushing the max rated payload. Think how often you see a minivan loaded up with a family and some stuff that's clearly riding on the rear bumpstops... Because of the whole FWD and low weight capacity thing, IMO, they're useless for towing too. I cringe every time I see one with a trailer of any kind on the back (especially considering they're almost always bottomed out in the rear from the tongue weight). Personally, outside of a few like the R-class, the old Previa and others that weren't just an inflated car in their design, I hate the things. I'd much rather have a vehicle that's actually capable than one that just pretends to be.

Couldn't disagree more. Minivans are designed to be the family workhorses. They're designed to haul 6 or 7 people around, along with some of their gear. How often do I see a minivan loaded riding on the rear bump stops? A whole lot less often than I see it in a family sedan, a station wagon or a small pick up. And usually when I see it, it's on a van that's clearly lived a very hard life. Also remember that the minivan is designed to deliver a comfortable ride, so there has to be some compliance in the suspension. They're not supposed to compete with cargo hauling capacity of a Dodge Ram. Minivans are the kings of hauling people and their gear. As for towing, sure, you're not going to tow a full size car on an open deck trailer. They're not designed for that. But a landscape trailer, small boat, snowmobiles...all day long. As I said, I towed many a race car on a dolly with my Sedona. Never once felt unsafe or overloaded. It has a tow rating of 3500lbs and it towed that with ease.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
6/17/16 9:26 a.m.
Johnboyjjb wrote: My vanpool has a 2015 caravan with 50k miles. It has had door innards replaced. The transmission is starting to fail. And we are on our third set of tires and brakes. Not a fan.

And, on the flip side of that coin, my 2012 T&C has 50,000 miles on it, looks and drives pretty much like new, and is on its original brakes all round, pads included. I suspect the key words in your post are "van pool".

I've had 3 Mopar minivans in 24 years: 1992 base shorty Caravan, 2000 Grand Caravan Sport, and 2012 T&C Limited. All have performed their family workhorse duties with minimal maintenance or complaints. Hell, none of them even rusted. The only reason the previous 2 were replaced was because they were both killed in rear-ender collisions. The 1992 got creamed in 2003 and the 2000 got creamed in 2015, so I got 11-12 years of trouble-free use out of both of them.

3-year-old loaded T&C lease returns can be bought all day for approximately 60% of new cost, with under 50,000 miles on them.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/17/16 9:30 a.m.

I came to the same conclusion as the OP a couple of years ago, and even though I'm a single guy with no kids---- a minivan was the best tool for the job.

I considered going used, but then I looked at how incredibly cheap the Dodge Grand Caravans are. You can get a base model (AVP package) for about $20K. That's a ton of vehicle for the $$. (actually about two tons!)

The Honda drives slightly better, the Toyota may have better reliability, but neither is enough to trump the price difference.

In the end, I bought a 30th Anniversary Model, (2014) as it enabled me to mix and match the options I was looking for. Mine has full stow&go (which I use at least once a week), sat. radio, full power, rear A/C, and windows on the sliding doors that go down. My MSRP for a nice, comfy, 282hp van was $26K.....I was out the door at $22,600---- brand spanking new.

I've had it for a couple of years, and about 18K miles. No issues so far....none. It's quick, gets 25-30 mpg on the highway, 19-22mpg in town, and does everything I need a DD to do. It's also damn comfortable. The transmission isn't the most refined, but it's not bad---- that's about my only gripe.

I tow my 13' boat with it, and it does just fine. I wouldn't try to tow a 5000 trailer with it, but it's not designed for that. It was designed to be an incredibly versatile tool for daily driving / errand running, and at that it excels.

jstein77
jstein77 UltraDork
6/17/16 10:35 a.m.

Nobody has mentioned the Sedona, so I'll have to repeat myself. We've had 2, an '04 and a '12, and they've both been super reliable and capable. Absolutely 0 problems with the '12 so far. My B-I-L still owns the '04, and it's been great for him too.

codrus
codrus GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/17/16 11:22 a.m.

We have a 2007 Odyssey, bought it brand new. It had zero warranty claims. Zero. I've never owned another car that I've been able to say that about. In fact, the only mechanical repair it's needed in 95K miles was an $85 transmission position sensor because it started doing the "need to shift to neutral to get it to start" thing.

I don't like to use the words "sport" and "minivan" in the same sentence, but the Honda is definitely the most dynamic of the minivans on the market. You won't confuse it for a Miata or a Civic, but the difference in how it drives as compared to the other minivans on the market is night and day.

Odysseys were known for transmission failures in the early 2000s, but that seems to have been mostly fixed somewhere between 2005 and 2007 when they put in the beefier transmission out of the Ridgeline.

Robbie
Robbie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/17/16 11:28 a.m.
jstein77 wrote: Nobody has mentioned the Sedona,

Klayfish mentioned the sedona.

Robbie
Robbie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/17/16 11:39 a.m.
Klayfish wrote:
rslifkin wrote: The problem with minivans being like big cars is that they're horribly underbuilt. Sienna? It's a Camry platform with Camry-sized trans, suspension, etc. Weight carrying capacity kinda sucks too on most of them. By the time you fill all the seats with average size people, you're already pushing the max rated payload. Think how often you see a minivan loaded up with a family and some stuff that's clearly riding on the rear bumpstops... Because of the whole FWD and low weight capacity thing, IMO, they're useless for towing too. I cringe every time I see one with a trailer of any kind on the back (especially considering they're almost always bottomed out in the rear from the tongue weight). Personally, outside of a few like the R-class, the old Previa and others that weren't just an inflated car in their design, I hate the things. I'd much rather have a vehicle that's actually capable than one that just pretends to be.
Couldn't disagree more. Minivans are designed to be the family workhorses. They're designed to haul 6 or 7 people around, along with some of their gear. How often do I see a minivan loaded riding on the rear bump stops? A whole lot less often than I see it in a family sedan, a station wagon or a small pick up. And usually when I see it, it's on a van that's clearly lived a very hard life. Also remember that the minivan is designed to deliver a comfortable ride, so there has to be some compliance in the suspension. They're not supposed to compete with cargo hauling capacity of a Dodge Ram. Minivans are the kings of hauling people and their gear. As for towing, sure, you're not going to tow a full size car on an open deck trailer. They're not designed for that. But a landscape trailer, small boat, snowmobiles...all day long. As I said, I towed many a race car on a dolly with my Sedona. Never once felt unsafe or overloaded. It has a tow rating of 3500lbs and it towed that with ease.

also disagree that they are horribly underbuilt. More like all cars are horribly underrated. Here is a good (although old) article on the matter, and a table of cars and their weight limits.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/autos/2007-09-13-overloaded-cars_N.htm

2006 M.Y. Vehicles (model/seating capacity/payload capacity in LBS):
Acura TSX 5 850

Acura MDX 7 1158

Dodge Grand Caravan 7 1150

Dodge Magnum 5 865

Dodge Caliber 5 865

Ford Mustang 4 720

Ford Fusion 5 875

Honda Civic 5 850

Honda Accord 5 850

Honda S2000 2 400

Lincoln Navigator 8 1452

Lincoln MKX 5 909

Mazda Speed6 5 850

Mazda 3 5 850

Mazda CX-7 5 850

Mazda MX-5 2 340

Nissan Versa 5 860

Scion xB 5 850

Scion tC 5 850

Toyota Highlander 7 1200

Toyota Tundra Double Cab 6 1340

kazoospec
kazoospec SuperDork
6/17/16 11:46 a.m.

Owned 2 so far, 04 Odyssey and (for the past couple months) a 12 Mazda5. The Odyssey was always reliable for us and had plenty of power (man, I'd love to have that motor in my Miata) and had a ton of space. It rode fairly comfortably and we've done week long road tips with 6 people + luggage with no problems. No issues what-so-ever on a highway merge. Here's the issue: The other 99% of driving we did. It got horrible fuel mileage (around 17 in mixed driving, although this reportedly got better with newer models), handled like a truck, and took up a ton of room in the garage/driveway/parking lot. It also had horrible rearward visibility for Mrs. Kazoo, who is quite a bit shorter than me and a fixed, low seat height (at least in the LX model). The poor sight lines and continent sized turning circle lead to several parking lot "incidents".

Now the 5. The bad: Realistically, if you have more than 4 people, anyone in the third row is going to be uncomfortable after a half hour or so. Not a ton of cargo room, especially if the third row seats are up. Positively glacial acceleration. The later model styling is . . . polarizing. The good: Much smaller footprint in the garage, parking lots, driveways, etc. Much better sight lines and (at least in the GT model) adjustable seat height. WAAAAAAAAY better handling. Like Miata vs. "K car" better. Also much more efficient. We're averaging mid 20's with mostly city driving. Earlier models are available in a manual. They can be had pretty cheap if you don't mind buying a former rental. In other words, its much better for the "other 99%" of driving, at a lower price point. Haven't really had it long enough to comment on reliability.

nderwater
nderwater PowerDork
6/17/16 12:28 p.m.
jstein77 wrote: Nobody has mentioned the Sedona, so I'll have to repeat myself. We've had 2, an '04 and a '12, and they've both been super reliable and capable. Absolutely 0 problems with the '12 so far. My B-I-L still owns the '04, and it's been great for him too.

My wife drives a 2016 Sedona. It's a great looking vehicle inside and out, and way WAY more spacious and versatile than the 7-passenger crossover it replaced. We've only put 4K miles on the clock so far, but I'd recommend looking at these if you're in the market for a comfortable family vehicle.

...But it sounds like you are not. If you're looking for the van with the best cargo utility, I'd look for the cheapest Grand Caravan with stow-n-go that you can get your hands on. The interior doesn't feel as nice as its competitors, but it's an excellent platform for hauling stuff.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/17/16 1:16 p.m.

I don't know much about the Sedona's besides they look nice, and folks have good things to say about them. I did hear today that there is a recall on them for the front control arms rusting in Northern climates where they use salt. Something to look for if you are buying a used one in the rust-belt.

For me the Dodge's Stow & Go seating was a game changer. It's brilliant engineering, and feels like a magic trick whenever I make those seats disappear.

LifeIsStout
LifeIsStout GRM+ Memberand New Reader
6/17/16 2:15 p.m.

I have heard surprisingly good things about The Nissan Quest, and probably different enough that you can get a good deal on them.

92dxman
92dxman SuperDork
6/17/16 2:33 p.m.

I have a 10 Mazda 5 right now:

Good: I avg 28-29 mpg in mixed driving, cargo space is great with both rows down, good handling, good visibility, stick shift makes it fun to drive.

I don't find acceleration bad so to speak. I find shifting around 3k to be the sweet spot. I can squeal the tires if done right. It is fun in the winter with the traction control off

Bad: A tad buzzy on the highway (3500 @ 75, 4000 @80-85), road noise is a little loud, factory cd player sucks (mine died after 100k miles), earlier models needed a 6th gear badly, eats rear struts (had to replace mine at 65k miles).

I don't find the later ones (12 and up) too comfortable and the interior is better in the 10 and earlier ones. You can get a 6 speed manual only in the sport model I believe up until 2014.

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/17/16 2:35 p.m.

I am mostly looking for comfort of moving people and there stuff but every now and the I need to put a ladder on the roof or make a big box store run I would like the space to put things in the back. Not sheet of plywood (I would put those on the roof) but say I wanted to go to the junk yard and get a transmission or a fender or something like that.

Then again I am the guy that use to move engines and transmissions around in the back hatch of my FC RX7.

codrus
codrus GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/17/16 3:54 p.m.
dean1484 wrote: I am mostly looking for comfort of moving people and there stuff but every now and the I need to put a ladder on the roof or make a big box store run I would like the space to put things in the back. Not sheet of plywood (I would put those on the roof) but say I wanted to go to the junk yard and get a transmission or a fender or something like that. Then again I am the guy that use to move engines and transmissions around in the back hatch of my FC RX7.

I know someone who used to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood in the hatch of his FC RX7. It's apparently 4 feet wide up to the seat backs, so you can hang it out the back...

markwemple
markwemple SuperDork
6/17/16 3:59 p.m.
LifeIsStout wrote: I have heard surprisingly good things about The Nissan Quest, and probably different enough that you can get a good deal on them.

And I've heard nothing but horror stories.

2002maniac
2002maniac Dork
6/17/16 4:08 p.m.

I picked up a nearly loaded 2012 Chrysler T&C with 70k miles on it a few months ago. It was a private party sale and not a rental or lease return (shocking!) Paid just under $14k for it.

The 3.6 Pentastar is great and has been averaging about 20mpg with 90% city driving. The leather quality is not very high class, but is plenty comfy and easy to clean up. The DVD player is heaven sent on road trips with the kids.

Sure, it will probably cost more to maintain in the long run than an Odyssey, but the money saved on initial purchase will more than cover it.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
6/17/16 4:32 p.m.

Like Joe G, I'm a single guy and drive a minivan. A '08 GC I bought used in Dec 2013 with 78K miles on it. It replaced my '95 Dodge Cummins 4x4 pick-up. It'll pass 160K miles this weekend. Repairs have been minimal. A heater pipe. Rear calipers. A/C needed a recharge. The driver's side sliding door electric lock doesn't work (appears to be a broken wire). Otherwise, I fill it with 87 and change the oil whenever the computer tells me to. (3-6k miles depending on my driving habits).

Stow-n-Go was also the must-have for me. Most of the time the van is in "cargo-mode" with all seats folded for hauling my bikes around. Living in a 3rd floor apt right now, having to actually take out the seats and store them would royally suck.

The big selling point of a GC/T&C is price - they built and sold so many of them, they are silly cheap used. I bought mine for $10K at CarSense (no haggle chain similar to CarMax) and the price was a bit under book-value at the time for the mileage/condition. Parts when you do need them are also silly cheap. If whatever you are doing would be helped by a bit of stealthiness, then few things are as ubiquitous as a 08-15 GC/T&C.

Right now, if something were to happen to my van, I'd likely replace it with another one, except a bit newer and with the newer 4.0L engine. The 3.3L OHV engine combined with a 4 spd AT tends to feel a bit underpowered at times and doesn't return MPG all that great (25 at best).

DrBoost
DrBoost UltimaDork
6/17/16 7:15 p.m.

Well, I've put a few more months on the Oddy. The trans either just sucks, or is on the way out. The T&C trans was still going strong. The left sliding door is acting up, the liftgate won't power close, and it's time to do a timing belt, something the T&C would never neesd. The T&C is seeming better and better every week.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 PowerDork
6/17/16 8:12 p.m.

The pinnacle of minivan evolution manifested itself as the Mazda MPV. Unfortunately, Mazda quit importing them to the states in 2005. A very nice compromise of size, power, fuel economy, and driving feel. I've got almost 140k miles on mine, and it has needed nothing but ignition coils in addition to routine maintenance items.

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