Through the years, vehicles have evolved as the needs of families have changed. While station wagons were a family favorite in the ‘70s, minivans quickly took preference for family travel and held their popularity into the millennium. Although the SUV is now the family car of choice, the minivan still has a solid fan base of loyal buyers.
When the minivan reigned supreme, there were many different models available. While the options have dwindled over the years, the remaining models all rank well for safety and dependability. Most are comparable in design, but what is the biggest minivan on the market?
Currently, there are only four minivan models available:
- Chrysler Pacifica
- Honda Odyssey
- Kia Carnival
- Toyota Sienna
Each of these models is comparable when it comes to fuel efficiency, safety and price, too. How do they size up, though? Here’s a look at each minivan in detail.
The Pacifica has a base price of $37,095, which makes it the highest-priced minivan. It was rated as a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is the highest safety rating a vehicle can earn.
The Pacifica has space for up to seven passengers. While the standard Pacifica Touring can get 19 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway, the minivan also is offered in a fuel-efficient hybrid option.
The hybrid has room for seven passengers but can get more than MPGe (combined for both city and highway). The Pacifica also includes more than 100 safety features (standard and options) to keep the driver and passengers safe during the drive.
How big is the Pacifica? It offers a maximum interior cargo space of 140.5 cubic feet. For passenger space, the second row features 39 inches of legroom, and the third row offers 36.5 inches. The driver and front passenger have 41.1 inches of legroom.
The Odyssey has a base price of $33,040. It also was rated as a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. The Odyssey offers the same fuel efficiency as the standard Pacifica—19 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway. The Odyssey also boasts numerous standard safety features and upgrades.
However, the Odyssey offers more legroom than the Pacifica. The front seats and middle row include 40.9 inches of legroom. The third row offers 38.1 inches.
Behind the first row, the Odyssey offers a maximum cargo space of 144.9 cubic feet. Behind the third row, it offers about 38 cubic feet of space.
The Kia Carnival is one of the most budget-friendly minivans available. With a base price of $32,300, the Carnival has space for up to eight passengers. The Carnival can get 19 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway, which makes it slightly less fuel efficient than its competitors. It received a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS (for models with specific headlights).
However, the Carnival is noted to be best in class for cargo space. It offers a maximum cargo space of 145.1 cubic feet. While legroom space is decent, the Carnival offers the least amount of space for third row passengers. The front seat offers 41.1 inches of legroom, and the second row offers 40.5 inches. The third row is a bit tighter and only offers 35.6 inches of leg space.
The Toyota Sienna is the second most expensive minivan with a base price of $34,710, but it’s a hybrid. However, it offers room for eight passengers (unless buyers elect for captain’s chairs in the second row), and it boasts the best gas mileage among all the minivan models (except the hybrid Pacifica). The Sienna can get 36 MPG combined and received a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS.
The Sienna offers the tightest legroom space for the driver and front passenger, but it offers the most space for third row passengers. The front row has 40.3 inches, the second row has 39.9 inches, and the third row passengers have 38.7 inches of legroom.
As for cargo space, the Sienna might be a bit more cramped. The Sienna has a maximum cargo space of 101 cubic feet—far below its competitors.
What Minivan Has the Most Space?
When the seats are dropped down in the second and third rows, minivans can hold quite a lot of cargo. This is handy for families who need to pack boxes for moving or haul other items. The minivan with the most cargo space is currently the Kia Carnival—but only by a very slight margin.
For legroom, though, each minivan has its strengths. The Kia Carnival and Chrysler Pacifica offer the most legroom for the driver and front seat passenger. The Odyssey has the most space for second-row passengers, while the Toyota Sienna offers the most legroom in the third row.
Before Minivans Went Mini, They Were Just Vans
Minivans weren’t always the standard family car. Again, station wagons once dominated the family market. However, vans also were an option. Vans of the past weren’t always known as mini, and older vans tended to be less refined in style.
Many ‘80s children slept in the back of the van during long car trips. Like newer sleeker minivans, the older vans were sized to hold plenty of passengers. For example, the Chevy Astro could seat up to eight (the same as many of today’s minivans).
The older vans of the ‘80s also typically included a velvet-like interior. Now minivans commonly feature cloth seats or leather.
What was the largest minivan or van ever? Older now discontinued vans like the Dodge Grand Caravan could boast more space than modern predecessors. However, there are no solid stats on what minivan offered the most cargo space.
Are New Minivans On the Horizon?
One of the most iconic early relatives of the minivan was the kitschy and groovy Volkswagen Microbus. These vehicles are highly collectible and remain emblematic of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The vintage bus was extremely roomy, and these buses are still used by some modern nomads as on-the-go mobile living space.
Volkswagen is set to release a new electric minibus/minivan called the ID Buzz. According to Tom’s Guide, the bus/van is expected to drive into the U.S. market in 2023 and will have an estimated range of 250 miles.
The downside of the new bus/van, though, might be related to its power—it takes 8.5 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60. Many modern electric vehicles now boast quick acceleration stats. However, minivans have never really been known for their quick speed. Stats for the Honda Odyssey, for example, note that its 0 to 60 time is around 6.5 seconds. The Sienna has similar stats.
The VW ID Buzz could be a possible new electric option for those who want a more modern iteration of the old microbus or for buyers looking for a cool alternative to the standard minivan.
Minivans vs. SUVs
Many families choose third-row SUVs for a sporty family car; some buyers might like the weight of the SUV and choose these cars because they feel safer. Others might just like the look of the SUV.
The minivan, though, offers a few key features that the SUV doesn’t. For example, minivans typically include sliding doors. This makes loading the vehicle easier.
Sliding doors also provide hands free convenience. Many minivans let drivers use the key fob to automatically open the sliding doors. When carrying kids, sports gear or groceries to the car, this makes accessing the vehicle a less cumbersome experience.
Minivans also provide the most cargo space. The largest SUV is the Chevrolet Suburban, which offers 144.7 cubic feet of space. With a base price of $53,200, the Suburban costs about $16,000 more than the most expensive minivan. Both the Kia Carnival and the Honda Odyssey offer a little more cargo space for much less money.
Choosing the Best Minivan
Car buyers who want to find the best minivan for their needs can explore all the available models using RelayCars. The RelayCars website lets buyers explore all the most modern minivan models using 3D interactive imagery or augmented reality.
Car buyers also can download the RelayCars app to explore vehicles in virtual reality (with Google Cardboard); those without Google Cardboard can explore cars on the app by exploring 3D models of vehicles on their screens. Using RelayCars interactive and immersive platforms, car buyers can use a fingertip to interact with 3D car models and explore the car from all angles.
In addition, those who use a mobile device to visit the RelayCars website can explore vehicles by dropping models of their favorite models into their environment using augmented reality. Explore minivan models in the driveway, the backyard or place them into the garage.
RelayCars also includes data for all newer models; compare vehicle specs and features or just research different vehicle options. Shopping for a new minivan can begin at home using the immersive tools and vehicle data offered by RelayCars. Explore all the minivans—even earlier models—and find the minivan that fits the lifestyle, the budget and, of course, the family!