Tuesday, May 17, 2016 6:43 pm

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Minivan_Buying_guide-lede

Love them or hate them, many parents still find the minivan as indispensable as their smartphone.

Parents aren’t the only minivan devotees; 40% of the buyers of some minivan models are empty nesters.

Besides the space, storage and seating, one of the biggest benefits of minivans is the sliding side doors. Park your car or SUV in a grocery store parking lot, and getting a child in and out of a car seat without the benefit of a sliding door can be a Houdini-worthy chore.

While total sales of minivans have fallen dramatically in the last 15 years, there are still new models coming, continuing to raise the bar on technology and features.

 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus

Chrysler Pacifica: MSRP Starting at $29,595

For the 2017 model year, Chrysler has discontinued its Town & Country and Caravan minivans. But not to worry, it has only retired the names. Chrysler, now known as FCA after being taken over by Fiat, has developed an all-new minivan on an all-new engineering platform: the Pacifica.

The Chrysler Pacifica has features that many parents love – like foot-operated side sliding doors, Stow-N-Go seating that disappears into the floor and a built-in vacuum cleaner. The Pacifica is powered by an upgraded 3.6 liter Pentastar engine – one of the best in the industry. New innovations abound: a seat that can tip forward with a child seat fastened to it; a removable center seat that increases carrying capacity to 8 people; and an all-wheel drive option. The Pacifica will also come as a plug-in electric vehicle, getting up to 80 mpg. A pretty impressive DVD entertainment system is available too. The new Pacifica is state-of-the-art useful and enjoyable to drive.

 

toyota_sienna-TrueCar_pricing

Toyota Sienna: MSRP Starting at $28,850

In a defiant nod to the “dull lifestyle” minivan image, Toyota created a series of “Swagger Wagon” videos on YouTube featuring rapping parents. While the videos probably get eye-rolls from teenagers, parents, and little kids eat them up. And, indeed, if the Toyota Sienna doesn’t exactly make you feel “swagger,” it should make you glad you bought one every day you drive it.

First, Sienna is a pretty handsome vehicle. It also has greater space in unexpected places, like extra legroom in the third row of seats. The second row of seats can be removed, but they do not fold away neatly like Chrysler’s. Back-up camera and blind-spot monitors are standard equipment on all trim levels. Upper trim models have a power liftgate, steering-wheel audio controls, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a dual sunroof, and a huge 16.4-inch-wide LCD screen and a DVD player.

Reliable and a family delight to drive and live with every day.

 

2016 Honda Odyssey

Honda Odyssey: MSRP Starting at $29,400

Though the second-row seats don’t fold away into the floor, the Odyssey’s strength, like the Toyota Sienna’s, is space and storage, combined with steering precision and a smooth, reliable drivetrain. Even the third-row seats are comfortable enough for a car trip with adults, and there is ample storage behind the third-row seating when it is being used.

The Honda Odyssey comes well-equipped in the base trim model: electric-powered driver seat, back-up camera, and separate air-conditioning controls for front and rear passengers. The higher trim levels come with an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a rear-seat entertainment system, rear sunshades, blind-spot blinkers on the side mirrors, a built-in vacuum, chilled storage box, forward collision avoidance, and more. The second row of seats can be configured for two or three seats.

Adding options to the Odyssey makes this minivan a wonderful day-in/day-out family car.

 

2015 Nissan Quest

Nissan Quest: MSRP Starting at $26,580

The Nissan Quest is a bit smaller than other minivans and has gone a long time without an engineering overhaul, but it does have some niceties: fold-flat second-row seats and nicely organized controls.

The Quest seats up to seven, while rivals seat up to eight. It has a 5-inch screen in the standard dash, and 7-inch if you go up to the SV and SL models, versus 8-inch on other minivans. If you go up to the Platinum trim level, you can get a blind-spot warning system and 360-degree parking camera. Navigation and entertainment systems operate intuitively. Despite its age, the Quest is a smooth and pleasant driving and handling minivan. But because of its age, buyers should be able to take advantage of frequent incentives.

 

2016 Kia Sedona SX Limited

Kia Sedona: MSRP Starting at $26,400

The strength of the Kia Sedona is styling. Kia’s designers have bestowed the Sedona with some of the burly styling cues of a SUV/crossover, while distinguishing it from other curvier, more egg-shaped minivans. It has a very handsome front-row design scheme, and offers a console-mounted shifter rather than the dash-mounted shifter in other minivans that many drivers do not like.

You can order a Sedona in either seven- or eight-seat configurations. All of the desired features are available at different trim levels: automatic sliding doors, power seats, entertainment system, Bluetooth and audio connectivity, USB ports, heated second-row seats, 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, refrigerated glove-box, surround-view camera, forward-collision warning, second-row leg extension seating, and blind-spot warnings. The base model, though, seems to be a bit too base with manual seat controls and sliding doors.

A good value here, and Kia has the longest warranty coverage in the category.

 

2017 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

Ford Transit Connect: MSRP Starting at $22,675

The Transit Connect comes in either cargo-van or people-wagon configurations. The engineering platform of this van is not as purpose-designed for people and kids as other minivans. Ford’s aim with the Transit Connect, though, is to offer families on a budget a lower-priced option compared with rivals from Honda, Toyota and Chrysler.

This van is also a bit smaller than other minivans. It seats five or seven people depending on the wheelbase selected. If the whole package seems and looks a bit European, it’s because Ford imports it to the U.S. from Europe where it is very popular. The top-of-the-line Titanium trim level offers 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, automatic headlights, adaptive cornering fog-lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding mirrors, chrome exterior trim, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with built-in compass, four front speakers for the sound system, and Ford’s Sync system that connects your smartphone to the van.

The Transit Connect comes with a four-cylinder engine. Two options include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers 169 horsepower and a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 178 hp.

The Transit Connect is a great option for families on a budget, and those looking for an economical alternative to a work-van or pickup.

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