Although commercial vans come in various sizes, these days minivans only come in a single, full size.
Minivans are considerably more expensive than they once were. Though some offer spartan models starting in the low-$20,000 range, most start in the upper $20,000s. From there, slathering on equipment can leave luxury-lined models passing the $45,000 mark.
V6 power is the standard among minivans. Expect adequate to brisk acceleration and around 20 mpg combined. Only one offers all-wheel drive.
Minivans are some of the safest vehicles on the road, with plenty of airbags and available high-tech accident avoidance tech. Shoppers should also be aware of crash test scores produced by NHTSA and the IIHS.
Key items to look for in a minivan include power-sliding doors, versatile seat configurations, rear air-conditioning, an entertainment system, storage containers and so on. Luxuries like automatic climate control, heated seats, smartphone interfaces, USB ports, onboard WiFi, navigation systems, keyless start systems and Bluetooth capability are now commonplace options on minivans.
Family buyers should zero in on a minivan's second-row seat, as each model usually offers some sort of unique configuration or feature that may benefit your family. Some stow into the floor, some have built-in footstools, some feature removable center positions and some slide laterally to accommodate three-abreast child seats. Most do some combination thereof. All minivans now feature a third row that folds neatly into the floor, but the ease with which it performs this trick varies from model to model, as does the resulting passenger space.
Minivans can seat seven or eight in comfort and are designed to allow parents to move about easily to tend to young children.
No matter how you cut it, a minivan is superior to an SUV in its ability to haul passengers and cargo. The cabins are cavernous, though the versatility of its second row comes into play here as well. How heavy and easy are its seats to remove, or do they fold away (or at least move enough out of the way)?
While SUVs may seem like the more stylish choice for family transportation, minivans are definitely the more financially savvy choice: They cost less to insure and maintain. They seat more people comfortably in their roomier cabins. They're just about as fuel-efficient as large crossovers, but have an advantage over full-size truck-based SUVs.