Minivans have fallen out of favour. After decades of buying minivans, consumers have flocked to SUVs and crossovers as the preferred mode of family transportation.
Here is a perfect example of form over function. Realistically and statistically, minivans are a superior choice when it comes to transporting people and/or packages.
Minivans offer more interior space and easier access for both. Let’s take, for example, a comparison between a Toyota Sienna and GM’s largest SUV – the Chevrolet Suburban.
The Toyota Sienna minivan offers more cargo room and space for humans than a gargantuan Chevy Suburban
The Suburban is 257-mm longer, 72-mm wider and a whopping 600 kg heavier! Yet, despite that size ‘advantage’, the Toyota offers 56-mm more legroom in the third row and 378 litres more cargo space behind that third row – 1,100 vs 722. Fold the third row down, and the minivan’s advantage blossoms to an extra 414 litres of cargo space – 2.470 compared to 2,056 for the big Suburban.
Better space utilization means better utility. Practicality is in the genetic makeup of minivans.
Ease of entry is another minivan advantage over crossovers, for adults, kids and car seats
Another strong advantage minivans have over crossovers or SUVs is the ease of entry, whether for people or packages.
Sliding side doors leave a nice big opening and don’t require you to park metres away from the next vehicle or wall. Getting into the third row is also possible without resorting to gymnastics. These are both family vehicles. But, if child seats feature in your daily life – minivans with their superior access to second and third row seats are at a distinct advantage.
Then there is the issue of floor or load height. The main reason given by most buyers when choosing a crossover is visibility. “You sit higher, so you can see more”. That is true, but not as much as you think. The actual difference is often less than 5.0 cm. But that extra height means you have to step up further to get in and lift higher when loading heavy or bulky items.
The minivan’s low and flat floor, combined with the tall roof and huge opening makes throwing stuff in a breeze.
All-wheel drive is now offered on the Toyota Sienna as well as Chrysler minivans
Many consumers give the advantage to crossovers because of the availability of all-wheel-drive. But the Sienna and newest Chrysler minivans are also available with that feature.
The bigger and far heavier Suburban requires a bigger and thirstier engine. The Chevy will consume an average of 15.7 litres every 100 kilometres of city driving, while the Toyota uses only 12.6. On the open road, the Suburban will use 11.5 litres every 100 kilometres and the Senna 9.1. But, on the plus side, the Suburban can tow heavier loads, if that is a big part of your usual use.
There is also the issue of driving in crowded suburban environments. A minivan is a whole lot easier to maneuver in parking lots, whether at the rink or mall, than a much larger SUV. It is also quieter on the open road and more nimble in the turns.
If you are considering a new vehicle for the family, put aside your concern about style and image – check out the minivan in that same showroom.
Take the children with you when shopping, including a child seat if applicable and a stroller. Load all of that in your prospective new ride. Are your children older and bigger? Let them check out the third row. Take that giant bag of hockey or ringette gear and check out the cargo area when all the seats are occupied.
FACTS & FIGURES
2020 Toyota Sienna SE FWD 8-pass
As tested: $46,816 including freight
Rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beams, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control,
Toyota Connected Services Audio Plus with Safety Connect and 20-cm touchscreen and Apple CarPlay
Nightshade Edition: (black side mirrors, chrome window accent trim, rear spoiler with black accents, rear trunk chrome trim, black taillight surround) $860
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 296 horsepower, 263 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.6 / 9.1
Length: 5,095 mm
Width: 1,985 mm
Wheelbase: 3,030 mm
Weight: 2,060 kgs