The minivan rarely gets respect, yet nothing else matches its practical utility when it's time to move a lot of people or a lot of stuff, and this is something that parents, carpoolers, business owners or yard-sale junkies can all appreciate. The minivan's sliding rear doors and low step-in height afford easy access for passengers, while its assortment of storage spaces and reconfigurable seating arrangement deftly solve transportation problems you didn't even know you had. Even if cargo-hauling tops your list of requirements, both minivans and full-size vans have you covered. And from a fuel economy standpoint, minivans generally achieve better gas mileage than most full-size SUVs. The minivan deserves some respect for the expert way it meets such a wide array of challenges.
The Honda Odyssey tops our list of recommended minivans for 2013. We feel it's the most well-rounded of the people haulers on the market thanks to its smooth, quiet ride, briskly powerful yet fuel-efficient V6, highly versatile interior and bountiful complement of available convenience features. We're also big fans of the Odyssey's agile handling. Don't get us wrong, as this is still a minivan, but this Honda's recently retuned suspension makes it feel much less like a behemoth around corners. And though the Odyssey can be pricier than its competitors, its user-friendly elements like an easy-to-stow third-row seat and versatile second-row seating (which can be configured to accommodate up to three child seats) make it the minivan we recommend the most.
Moving up to second place this year is the Nissan Quest. With better-quality interior materials than the Odyssey, super-convenient fold-flat second and third rows and Nissan's excellent continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Quest is a worthy contender in the minivan prize fight. And we should know, since we've spent the better part of a year getting to know one in our long-term fleet. Though the Quest only seats seven (compared to the available eight-passenger seating of most of its rivals) and has less cargo space than competitors, it delivers a higher level of driver engagement and stand-out styling. The Nissan Quest is a minivan, yet it also wants to be something more than that.
Even though it's third, don't assume the Toyota Sienna comes in last. It's comfortable, roomy, well-built and has certain high-end features that you won't find on the Odyssey, like keyless ignition/entry and adaptive cruise control. Plus the Sienna offers all-wheel drive, which is a must-have in less consistently temperate climes. As a whole, the Sienna is an excellent seven- or eight-passenger minivan choice for larger families. Lastly, if a full-size minivan is more than you need in a kidmobile but you'd still like six-passenger capacity and the miracle of sliding doors, take a look at the smaller Mazda 5, a micro minivan that could be just right for you.