The Situation: You want a minivan that does it all for a price that doesn't consume all of your budget.
The Obvious Choice: 2014 Honda Odyssey
Pros: Class-leading fuel economy among V6-powered vans, respectable handling, configurable second row.
Cons: Costly upper trim levels, button-heavy dash design.
When it comes to utility, quality and efficiency, the 2014 Honda Odyssey offers a potent combination. All trim levels of this van are now equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission paired to a 3.5-liter V6 which yields the best fuel economy among V6-powered minivans. Both seven- and eight-passenger configurations are available and the Odyssey's second-row allows for either a center pass-through, asymmetrical seating or a flat load floor. Among the Odyssey's many strengths are the best driving dynamics in the class — it's not slow and it handles responsively. Upper trims are filled with useful features — including navigation, rear-seat entertainment and an integrated vacuum cleaner — to ensure Cheerio-free seat rails.
The only real downside to the Odyssey is that once you go above the base trim level, it gets expensive quickly — reaching more than $45,000. Some users might dislike the Odyssey's button-heavy dash design as well, but overall this is a solid van.
Starting Price: $29,655 (LX)
Configuration: Transverse front-engine, front-drive, seven- or eight-passenger minivan
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 248 horsepower, 250 pound-feet; six-speed automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway)
See Edmunds' rating of the nearly identical 2013 Honda Odyssey here.
The Easily Overlooked Alternative: 2014 Toyota Sienna AWD
Pros: Only minivan available with all-wheel drive, abundant standard features.
Cons: AWD hurts fuel economy, less impressive interior trim compared to the Odyssey.
When we say the Toyota Sienna is overlooked, we're not referring to its sales numbers, but the fact that it's the only minivan offered with optional all-wheel drive. And having a standout feature like this only adds to the Sienna's utility and practicality.
LE trim Siennas — the lowest trim available with all-wheel drive — come standard with triple-zone climate control, an eight-way power adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a rear-view camera. Second- and third-row sunshades are also standard. Higher trim options include front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition and a 10-speaker premium audio system. Unique to the Sienna as part of the Premium Package is a 16.4-inch rear-seat entertainment screen which can be split to display two sources. Seven- and eight-passenger configurations are available depending on trim.
The most obvious downside to all-wheel drive, if there is one, is that fuel economy suffers marginally relative to the front-drive vans. Some materials in the lower-end models also look low rent. Otherwise, the Sienna is hard to fault — it's available in multiple seat configurations and offers a smooth, refined powertrain.
Starting Price: $33,780 (LE AWD)
Configuration: Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive, seven- or eight-passenger minivan
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 266 horsepower, 245 lb-ft, six-speed shiftable automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway)
See Edmunds' rating of the 2014 Toyota Sienna here.
The Value Option: 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan
Pros: Low base price, most flexible interior in the segment, class-leading power.
Cons: Less refined drivetrain, interior doesn't look and feel as premium as its competitors.
If you want maximum bang for the buck and you're willing to forego a little refinement to get it, the Dodge Grand Caravan is a great choice. Its Stow 'n Go seats provide this van with the most versatile second and third rows in the segment. Though you'll pay extra to get them on the base model (they're standard on higher trims), these seats make the van what it is: Wildly practical. Both second- and third-row seats disappear into the floor. What's more, the third-row seats can be configured into a rear-facing arrangement while parked.
Amenities, including an available Blu-Ray DVD player with a 9-inch second-row screen, might make the Grand Caravan more appealing than your family room for viewing movies. Otherwise, the Dodge offers a suite of available features: Heated front and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth and navigation with a 6.5-inch touchscreen. Blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-path detection are also available.
The Dodge's downsides are worth considering. It's noticeably lower quality than the Japanese vans and its powertrain is less refined. There's more engine noise and its transmission isn't as smooth or as decisive. Also, there's no eight-passenger configuration available.
Starting Price: $21,390 (SE trim with American Value Package)
Configuration: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, seven-passenger minivan
Powertrain: 3.6-liter V6, 283 horsepower, 260 lb-ft, six-speed shiftable automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 20 mpg combined (17 city/25 highway)