If you’re looking for a new minivan, it’s a safe bet that you want a vehicle with features the whole family can enjoy. Comfort and cargo capacity are key on family road trips, but convenience, safety and tech features are just as important to make the trip more enjoyable.
While the right minivan will keep you and your family better entertained and more comfortable, it’s also important to figure out which features are really worth the cost. Is the van you’re considering easy to get in and out of? If you have kids in car seats, can you buckle them in easily before a long drive? Some minivans handle these tasks better than others. However, you’ll have to fork over a little more cash if additional safety features or a DVD system are important to you.
While most minivans are relatively similar in stature, they’ll all accommodate your family a little differently. The Mazda Mazda5 is a smaller van, offering six-person seating in a maneuverable, fuel-efficient package. But larger vans, like the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest and Volkswagen Routan, are good if you need more cabin space.
Innovative Minivan Seating Options
Flexible seating options increase the utility and comfort of any minivan. The Dodge Grand Caravan, for example, comes with Stow ’n Go seats, which fold flat into the floor when additional cargo space is needed. When the seats are not being stored in the floor, the empty floor cavity can be used to store other items. The Honda Odyssey is available with a unique second row that features wide-mode seats, which can slide outward to increase elbow room, or fit a car seat in the middle. The second-row center position can also fold flat and be used as a tray with cup holders or slide 5.5 inches forward to keep the car seat closer to parents up front.
If you’ve got kids in car seats, you’ll also want to make sure that your new minivan has enough Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) connectors, which make it easier to install car seats properly. Most minivans have at least two sets of LATCH connectors on the second-row outboard seats. However, the Honda Odyssey bests the competition with a total of five sets of LATCH connectors. This makes the Odyssey a great choice if you’ve got small kids, but it also gives you the flexibility to move child safety seats more easily if you have extra passengers or cargo.
Interior Minivan Technology and Convenience
Almost every minivan on the market offers options that will make long rides more comfortable. Rear-passenger entertainment systems are widely available, and options such as Bluetooth and navigation mean you won’t have to fumble for your phone or maps.
Certain minivans offer convenience features that give them an advantage over others. Look for features such as power sliding doors and liftgates, which make it easier to load your van when you’ve got your hands full. Extra power outlets can also come in handy when you need to charge iPods, cell phones or game systems. Keeping your passengers entertained and comfortable in the back should make your drive in your new minivan more enjoyable.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re shopping for a new vehicle, but nothing is as important as your family’s safety. Make sure your next minivan is safe by checking its crash test scores on the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety websites. In NHTSA tests, vehicles can achieve a maximum of five stars in front- and side-impact crash tests and rollover risk tests, as well as for an overall rating. The IIHS rates vehicles in front, side and rear crash tests, as well as roof strength tests. Vehicles that earn top scores of Good in all four tests are named Top Safety Picks by the IIHS.
Minivans and their Family-Friendly Features
Dodge Grand Caravan
(cubic feet behind third/second/first row)
IIHS Top Safety Pick
NHTSA Overall Rating