Used 1996 Dodge Caravan Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

A complete redesign yields a cavernous interior, best-in-class driveability, and new innovations such as the optional driver's side passenger door. And although the all-wheel drive version is discontinued for now, Caravan dethrones the Ford Windstar and once again reigns as king of the minivans.

Vehicle overview

How do you improve upon a perennial winner in its class? That's not an easy task, but despite the growing competition in the minivan arena, Chrysler Corporation appears to be on the road to success--again.

From the beginning, Dodge Caravan (and Plymouth Voyager) front-drive minivans have demonstrated car-like characteristics. That's what has drawn so many sales, and it's even more true with this rendition. In addition to a fresh, more rounded profile, the all-new models are packed with detail improvements. Visibility is even better than before, with a broader view of the ground, due to a lowered cowl and 30-percent greater glass area. Beltlines sit several inches lower. Cargo area has grown by 20 percent, with 33-percent more room behind the third seat. Instead of being fixed in place, that back seat rolls rearward.

What's gained even more attention than those "Easy Out" rollaway seats is the innovative driver-side sliding door--a feature that makes so much sense, it's amazing that no one tried this before. Chrysler forecasts that two-thirds of customers will pay extra for the option. Also intriguing is the new windshield-wiper de-icer (standard on the LE).

Cupholders not only are numerous, they "ratchet down" to a smaller size. Except for an overabundance of climate controls, and an oddly-shaped column gearshift, the attractively curved dashboard is a pleasure to consult. Seats are soft but reasonably supportive, with moderate side bolstering.

Light steering response gives the Caravan an undeniably car-like feel, with an exceptionally smooth ride. Highly maneuverable and easy to control, the minivan delivers just a hint that you could exceed its capabilities, as when rounding a sharp curve. An all-new 150-horsepower 16-valve dual-cam four serves as base engine, with a 3.0- or 3.3-liter V6 optional. The Sport Caravan features specially tuned shocks and springs.

Chrysler notes that the shorter-body Caravan is 3.6 inches shorter than a Mercury Villager and nearly 15 inches shorter than an extended Ford Windstar, but offers more cargo space than either rival. Bigger in every dimension than its boxier predecessor, the latest Caravan doesn't feel nearly so massive from the driver's seat, and those additional inches yield extra space for people and goods. Definitely investigate the new Caravan if a smaller minivan meets your needs.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.