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Video: How to choose the best minivan for you

Consumer Reports News: October 05, 2011 12:38 PM

Minivans offer the best combination of cargo and people space with usually good fuel economy and abundant convenience features to appease all members of the family. Some shoppers are minivan averse, not wanting to embrace the “soccer mom” and “carpooler” image, and therefore buy SUVs or other vehicles. They are simply missing out. If transporting family and friends is your top priority but you also need interior versatility to carry cargo, there is no better all-purpose vehicle than a minivan.

Within the past year and a half, all the major minivans on the market have been redesigned or updated, and in the process, the automakers have worked to change the image of these practical boxes. Toyota’s advertising touted the Sienna as the “Swagger Wagon” trying to make the vehicle look cool to young families. Honda’s Odyssey commercial promoted the minivan in a romantic light with just a young couple. Chrysler and Nissan advertised their minivans as good for modern families. While advertising may be dripping in hyperbole, there is truth to the underlying message: Minivans are the right solution for many people.

Minivans offer generous space and fuel economy can be up to 20 mpg overall-- better than most large SUVs. They also have numerous available convenience features such as automatic sliding doors (greatly improving access to the second- and third-row seats), integrated video screens, a cooling box for beverages, and plenty of plugs for all passengers to connect their portable devices.

But, they are not all created equal. We have found a redesign does not ensure the new model is better than the one it replaces (see the Honda Odyssey). Further, refinement and reliability also varies.

If you are in the market for a minivan, check out our video guide for advice on what to look for and how to choose the best one for your needs. Also check out our minivans special section for further buying advice, plus our ratings and recommendations of the best models on the market.

Liza Barth

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