How to Choose the Right Minivan

Minivans offer roomy interiors with lots of seating and cargo space
Look for a Minivan with an engine that operates smoothly and quietly
Minivans are only available with an automatic transmission

MinivanMinivans are one of the best vehicle types for families. They have roomy interiors with lots of seating and cargo space. But there are so many makes and models to choose from. How do you know which one is the best for you and your family? Here are some helpful tips for choosing the right Minivan:

Seating: Minivans generally offer seating for up to seven or eight people, depending on the seating configuration. A seven-passenger model has captain’s chairs instead of a bench seat in the second row. These are more comfortable than a bench seat, help separate children, and allow for easy access to the third row.

Access: Minivans have lots of interior space and usually have plenty of head room and leg room as well. Most have wide front doors. They typically have sliding doors on both sides for easier access. In many models, you can open one or both rear-sliding doors with a button on the key fob or an inside switch. This is useful for people carrying bags or small children to the vehicle. Some models offer power-operated rear doors as well.

Cargo Space: The versatile seating configurations of a minivan mean that all of the space behind the front seats can be used as cargo space if needed. This is done with second and third row seats that are removable, or fold down onto the floor. The most convenient type of third row seat is one with a split design, so that one section can be folded down while allowing someone to sit in the other section. When comparing models, try removing and folding the seats to see which designs are easier to lower, fold, and remove. Minivans also typically have wide rear openings and lower floors than SUVs, which make loading easier. They usually have maximum weight loads of 1,100 pounds or more, which is more than most SUVs.

Safety: All new minivan models have standard dual front air bags, three-point safety belts in the outboard seating positions, and top-tether and LATCH child-seat attachments in the rear seats. Many models also offer side air bags, antilock brakes, and head-protection bags, typically a side-curtain design that protects people in both the front and second row seats. Other safety features to look for include electronic stability control , traction control, tire pressure monitors, safety-belt pretensioners, occupant-sensing air-bag systems, and daytime running lights. Rear back-up alert systems, which warn the driver with an audible signal and visual graphic when the rear bumper is near a solid object, such as a parked car, are becoming standard on most minivans.

FWD, RWD, or AWD: Minivans mainly use front-wheel drive, which is more space efficient and provides better traction than rear-wheel drive in slippery conditions. All-wheel drive, available in a few models, provides significantly better traction in slippery conditions. Traction control, available on many models, also helps provide extra traction in slippery conditions, but isn’t as effective as all-wheel drive.

Towing: A typical minivan can tow 3,000 pounds or more. This is more than what a typical sedan can tow, but less than what most SUVs can tow.

Engines: Minivans typically come with a 6-cylinder engine, which provides a good balance between power and fuel economy. Look for an engine that operates smoothly and quietly. While idling, there shouldn’t be too much noise or vibration. Even under hard acceleration, the engine should never be loud. For enhanced driving comfort, minivans are only available with an automatic transmission.

Popular minivans include the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and the Chrysler Town and Country. If you want a more affordable alternative, the Kia Sedona and the Dodge Grand Caravan is more than enough for your needs. The Mazda Mazda5 may be smaller compared to the rest of the competition, but it does offer an exciting blend of handling and versatility at a smaller price tag.

Published on Monday, March 2, 2009 - Copyright 2014, INC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.


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