Minivans for moms … and dads
At a time when many moms don’t want to be seen driving one, putting together a list of five minivans a tough guy can like might seem an insurmountable challenge. But Bankrate thinks minivans have gotten a bad rap. There are plenty of good reasons to own one, some even appealing to the Y chromosome.
For pure practicality, minivans are tough to beat. Their ride quality is as good as a full-size sedan, and they can carry more passengers. They provide an elevated seating position for better visibility and offer more cargo-carrying capacity. A couple of minivans even offer all-wheel drive.
Whether you need to get the gang to baseball practice, bring home a few sheets of plywood for a weekend chore or head to the Rockies for a family vacation, minivans are multiuse vehicles that compromise very little in comfort or utility. “Cool” isn’t everything. Sometimes you just need to get the job done.
For the most part, Bankrate’s picks are 2013s. Only the Kia Sedona is a 2014. Prices reflect the model, option level listed and destination charges. Here are the minivans that Bankrate believes even a tough guy can find a reason to love.
2013 Chrysler Town & Country Touring
- Price: $31,525
- Macho factor: accommodates 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood with rear hatch closed
- City – 17 mpg
- Highway – 25 mpg
Because it can carry full-size sheets of plywood or Sheetrock in good or foul weather, the Town & Country, with its fold-in-floor Stow ‘n Go seating, is indispensable for weekend home-improvement projects.
Dodge builds a less expensive version, but Bankrate chose the Chrysler because the Town & Country was the highest-ranking minivan in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 Initial Quality Study.
Moreover, automotive data firm R.L. Polk recognized the Town & Country for having the most loyal owners for 12 consecutive years. More than 31 percent of Town & Country minivans replaced last year were replaced with another Town & Country.
Seating up to seven, it has 33 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third-row seat. A 283-horsepower V-6 turns the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The Touring model is the entry-level option. Despite all of its premium trappings, such as leather seating, trizone automatic climate control and rear-seat entertainment system, it falls in the middle of the pack in price.
2014 Kia Sedona LX with power package
- Price: $28,650
- Macho factor: Affordable price and best warranty in the industry
- City – 17 mpg
- Highway – 24 mpg highway
Only one other pick on this list managed to slide under the price of the Kia Sedona LX. Bankrate added in the optional power package primarily because it includes a backup camera, but this option’s power-sliding rear doors and rear hatch add to the Sedona’s user-friendliness.
Seating as many as seven, its second-row captain’s chairs flip and fold for convenient third-row access. Folding flat into the floor, the third-row 60/40 split bench seat has about 32 cubic feet of cargo room behind it.
Delivering 269 horsepower to the front wheels by way of a six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission, the 3.5-liter V-6 boasts fuel economy of 20 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
You must step up to the EX model level to get extras such as a trip computer, a heated six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a four-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat, but the LX is nicely equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, MP3 connectivity and remote keyless entry.
2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring
- Price: $25,265
- Macho factor: Low price, solid fuel economy and athletic handling
- City – 22 mpg
- Highway – 28 mpg
Although it can’t hold as many passengers or as much stuff as the other picks here, the Mazda5 is ideal for owners who are willing to trade some space for better fuel economy and a dash of driving fun. And there’s the affordable purchase price: the lowest on this list.
Mazda calls its Mazda5 a multiactivity vehicle. It seats up to six, but the second-row captain’s seats and the 50/50 split third-row bench can be folded flat to open up the cargo-carrying space. Folding the third row flat creates 44 cubic feet of space. The reclining second-row seats also slide to create more legroom.
Producing the best fuel economy among these picks, a 157-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine teams with a five-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Agile and surprisingly responsive, the Mazda5 carries on the car company’s sporty attitude. Among the long list of standard features are automatic climate control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, satellite radio, and leather-trimmed seating.
2013 Nissan NV 3500 SL with technology package
- Price: $39,535
- Macho factor: Capable of carrying 12 passengers and their gear
- Gas mileage: Not available from EPA
Bankrate emphasizes “macho” rather than “mini” in picking the large Nissan NV 3500 SL. Nissan categorizes the NV 3500 as a “commercial” vehicle, but don’t let that scare you away. It may be large, but it is remarkably easy to drive.
Nissan claims 324 possible seating configurations. All of the seats behind the first row can be conveniently removed for cargo. Its cargo volume amounts to 216.9 cubic feet.
Too large for government-estimated fuel-economy numbers, you can figure with its 317-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8, mileage isn’t great. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Bankrate added the technology package option primarily for its rear backup camera — a necessity on a vehicle this large — but a navigation system with a 5-inch touch screen is included.
2013 Toyota Sienna SE
- Price: $34,570
- Macho factor: Aggressive styling and lots of cargo room with all seats in place
- City – 18 mpg
- Highway – 25 mpg
The quintessential road-trip vehicle, Toyota’s Sienna SE will make believers out of the minivan detractors among your golf foursomes or tailgating buddies. Actually, you can transport a couple of golfing foursomes, thanks to Sienna’s seating for eight and nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat.
Easily removable, the second-row split seat also has fold-down seatbacks, while the third-row seat folds flat into the floor.
Available in a number of model options, Bankrate chose the SE mainly because of its special sporty lower-body cladding. There are 12 cup holders, three 12-volt power outlets, a power rear hatch and power windows in the power-sliding side doors.
Sienna has plenty of go from its 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. A six-speed automatic transmission transfers engine output to the front wheels. AWD is available.