Types of Vans

US News

There are a lot of vans on the market, ranging from compact multipurpose vehicles (MPVs) like the Mazda5 to expansive 15-passenger models like the Chevrolet Express. There are also stripped-down cargo variants for those who need to haul more stuff than people. Since all vans try to maximize utility and function, let’s break down the different types to see which one best fits your needs.

MPVs

MPVs, or compact minivans, are the smallest that are currently on the market. Models in this segment include the Mazda5 and the (soon to be released) Ford C-Max. MPVs usually offer seating for six or seven, as well as cargo space that generally bests that available in similarly priced SUVs.

Another advantage to an MPV's diminutive size is its fuel economy, which is often better than other vehicles with similar interior space.

Minivans

Minivans have been popular with families since they hit the market in the 1980s. And why not? Shoppers on the lookout for the winning combination of value, cargo space and seating capacity are hard-pressed to find a vehicle that offers more cubic feet per dollar than today’s minivans.

Take the Toyota Sienna with its available all-wheel drive, seating for seven and 150 cubic feet of cargo space. Even among Toyota’s own model line, another vehicle can’t be found that bests the cargo space available in the Sienna.

The Sienna also doesn’t skimp when it comes to safety, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a “Top Safety Pick” for its standard electronic stability control and top score of “Good” in all industry crash tests. Other minivans that get the nod for impressive safety include the Honda Odyssey, which received five out of five stars for its overall crashworthiness from the federal government.

Passenger Vans

Minivans meet the needs of most shoppers who are looking for a vehicle with impressive interior space. But if even more space is needed, nothing short of a commercial vehicle can top the number of seats available in full-size passenger vans.

Passenger vans generally come in a variety of configurations to suit the needs of different buyers. The Chevrolet Express, for example, is available in different lengths and seating capacities for up to 15 people. Additionally, the Express is the only passenger van currently available with all-wheel drive, which gives it a leg up on the competition in areas that experience inclement weather. Cargo capacity in the Express is also cavernous, with 216 cubic feet available behind the front seats.

While full-size models like the Express offer an impressive amount of convenience and utility, their size and design makes them less fuel-efficient and more difficult to maneuver than their minivan siblings.

Cargo Vans

Some automakers offer cargo versions of their van models, selling stripped-down versions with interior configurations designed to maximize working utility rather than passenger accommodations. The Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Transit Connect and Chevrolet Express are all available as cargo vans -- with each of the three being a different size that could meet the needs of different individuals or businesses.

Aside from maximizing cargo space, cargo vans are also usually less expensive than their passenger-carrying counterparts. They generally only have two front seats, and often lack the additional rear windows seen on passenger vans and minivans. Due to their lower production costs, manufacturers are able to pass the savings along to the consumer.

The Ford Transit Connect, for example, is available as a cargo or a five-passenger model. Consumers whose needs are met by the cargo version of the Transit Connect can buy one for roughly $2,000 less than the passenger model. Additionally, Ford offers customizable cargo configurations for the Transit Connect which include shelving, roof racks, dividers and drawers, allowing shoppers to outfit their work vehicle to maximize its utility.

Summary

While vans are generally similar in appearance, it’s clear that the different types of vans available offer unique configurations for passenger space and utility that’s hard to match in other types of vehicles. From highly maneuverable MPVs and minivans to high-capacity cargo vans, there’s a model that will meet the needs of your passengers and your cargo.

Van Types and Capacities

Make/Model

Price

Type

Seating Capacity

Cargo Capacity

Fuel Economy

Drive Type

Ford C-MAX

TBD

MPV

7

70.2

TBD

FWD

Mazda5

$19,195

MPV

6

44.4 (behind 2nd row)

22/28

FWD

Toyota Sienna

$24,560

Minivan

7

150.0

19/24

FWD/AWD

Dodge Grand Caravan*

$23,660

Cargo, Minivan

7

143.8

17/25

FWD

Ford Transit Connect**

$23,355

Cargo, Passenger

5

129.6

21/26

FWD

Chevrolet Express**

$28,710

Cargo, Passenger

8+

216.2

15/20

RWD/AWD

*Minivan price listed      **Passenger van price listed

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