Winnipeg Free Press

The magic wagon lives on

by Willy Williamson . Aug 09 2019
FCAThe 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan is a descendant of the original Dodge Caravan, one of the first minivans to hit the market way back in 1984.

FCA

The 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan is a descendant of the original Dodge Caravan, one of the first minivans to hit the market way back in 1984.

Sure, you love the family SUV, but if you ever owned a minivan, there’s a good chance you miss that handy hauler, especially when it’s time to load up for a summer family road trip.

Most minivans offer seating for seven, fold-flat seats and ample storage, and are easy to climb in and out of for the young and old — and our four-legged companions. They can be loaded with cargo and even tow a small trailer. In a pinch, a minivan can even act as overnight accomodation.

Chrysler wrote the book on minivans with the first Dodge Caravan way back in 1984. It was a game-changer and practically killed the market for station wagons. Families, tradesmen and couriers couldn’t get enough of these vans — Chrysler sold millions of them — and the majority of automakers followed suit with minivans of their own.

In the early 2000s, just about every automaker had a minivan, with as many as 15 different models available.

But that was then.

Nowadays, minivans continue to slide deeper into obscurity.

According to a recent story by The Associated Press, in the United States in 2018, minivan sales sank to 364,000, the lowest level in more than 30 years and only about one-quarter of the 1.33 million sold in 2000, the peak year. Sales are down another 16 per cent in the first half of this year, with no end to the decline in sight.

Much like the minivan killed the station wagon, compact utility vehicles are hammering at minivan sales — outselling them at a rate of nearly 10 to one.

Fear not, though. While it is doubtful minivans will ever regain the market share they once held, if you’re a baby boomer who’s feeling a bit nostalgic, or looking for some room for the grandkids, or you’re a millennial with a growing family, there are still five minivans on the market — the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna.

Deep discounts and financing incentives are the norm in the minivan market, so if you’re out kicking tires it may be worth your while to check out what’s available in the minivan aisle — who knows, you may just find the perfect family cruiser!

Honda Odyssey

Starting at $35,490, all Odyssey models, including the well-equipped base LX versions, are front-wheel drive (FWD) and powered by a 280-horsepower, 3.5-litre direct-injected V-6 engine. Most models feature a nine-speed automatic transmission, while the loaded Touring model runs a 10-speed automatic.

Available options include 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic start/stop at idle, blind-spot information system with cross-traffic alert, acoustic door glass, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a rear-seat monitor, ambient lighting, wireless device charging, ventilated front seats, a 550-watt audio system, Wi-Fi hot spot, rear-seat entertainment, power liftgate, satellite radio and more.

The fifth-generation Odyssey went on sale in 2018. The new body is constructed using ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium, which minimizes weight and improves torsional body rigidity over the previous generation.

Fuel consumption: 12.6/8.4/10.7 litres per 100 kilometres, city/highway/combined.

Chrysler Pacifica

Starting at $32,235, all Pacifica models are FWD and are powered by Chrysler’s 287-hp 3.6-litre Variable Valve Timing Pentastar engine. All models run a nine-speed automatic transmission. Chrysler also offers the Pacifica Hybrid, Canada’s only hybrid minivan, with a starting price of $48,995.

Pacifica offers more than 100 available safety and security features including the Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system, available 4G Wi-Fi and a full array of comfort and convenience technologies.

Although the Pacifica name was previously used on a DaimlerChrysler mid-size crossover SUV from 2003 to 2007, the rebranded Pacifica minivan has been on the market since 2017.

Fuel consumption: Non-hybrid: 12.4/8.4/10.6; hybrid: 7.3/7.2/7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, city/highway/combined.

Kia Sedona

Starting at $28,495, all Sedona models are FWD and powered by a 276-hp 3.3L, GDI V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Available options include a wireless smartphone charging pad, a dual-touchscreen rear-seat entertainment system, a Harman/Kardon audio system, an electronic parking brake, a driver-attention monitor and more. A seven-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard, while upgrading to the pricier SX model increases the screen size to eight inches and adds navigation. All models come with USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The third-generation Sedona hit the market in 2014, but Kia’s designers have updated the Sedona’s looks for 2019 with new front and rear bumpers and a revised grille. The new eight-speed automatic transmission also replaces the six-speed found in the 2018 models.

Fuel consumption: 12.7/10.0/11.5 litres per 100 kilometres, city/highway/combined.

Dodge Grand Caravan

Starting at $25,445, all Grand Caravan models are FWD and powered by the 283-hp 3.6-litre Variable Valve Timing Pentastar engine. All models run a six-speed automatic transmission.

Available options include leatherette seats with perforated suede inserts and accent stitching, power 10-way driver’s seat, Stow ’n Go fold-in-floor seats, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and more. Standard on all 2019 models are advanced multistage driver and front-passenger airbags, which include low-risk deployment, a driver’s-side inflatable knee blocker, front seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtains for outboard passengers in all three rows.

Now in its fifth generation, the Grand Caravan received a major update in 2014 and another in 2018, but its overall design has remained largely unchanged since 2008.

Fuel consumption: 13.7/9.4/11.8 litres per 100 kilometres, city/highway/combined.

Toyota Sienna

Starting at $35,545, the Toyota Sienna is available either in FWD or all-wheel drive (AWD) and all models are powered by a 296-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 engine. All models run an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Available options include middle-row captain’s chairs, a sports trim package with smoked headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting front and rear, a sport-tuned suspension and premium audio with embedded navigation and an eight-inch display.

Sienna continues to be the only minivan on the market here in Canada to offer AWD.

Now in its third generation, which hit the market in 2010, Sienna did receive a mild facelift in 2018, which included a new front grille, new headlights, new side skirts and a variety of updated safety and technology features.

Fuel consumption: 12.6/9.1/11 FWD and 13.4/9.6/11.7 AWD.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

FCAThe 2019 Chrysler Pacifica has more than 100 available safety and security features.

FCA

The 2019 Chrysler Pacifica has more than 100 available safety and security features.

Honda The 2019 Honda Odyssey’s body is built with ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Honda

The 2019 Honda Odyssey’s body is built with ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Toyota The 2019 Toyota Sienna is the only minivan sold in Canada available in either FWD or AWD.

Toyota

The 2019 Toyota Sienna is the only minivan sold in Canada available in either FWD or AWD.

KIAThe 2019 Kia Sedona features new front and rear bumpers and an updated grille.

KIA

The 2019 Kia Sedona features new front and rear bumpers and an updated grille.