7 Minivans for Hauling Around the Troops in 2014

With the increasing saturation of fuel-savvy crossovers, minivans are becoming an endangered species of vehicles as the lines differentiating vehicle segments are becoming increasingly blurred.

However, there are still some holdouts that have been able to maintain consumer interest with their versatile interiors and the second-to-none nature that minivans have when it comes be shuttling children around.

Since we here at Wall St. Cheat Sheet haven’t driven the vehicles in question ourselves, we turned to the automotive expertise of Edmunds.com and others for some insight as to the pros and cons of each vehicle. Here are the seven minivan options on the market for 2014; the following are ranked alphabetically.

Chrysler Town&Country

1. Chrysler Town & Country

Base price: $30,765

Fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the Chrysler’s (FIATY.PK) ”versatile” rear seating configurations and its “plentiful” standard and optional features but wasn’t so impressed by its ride, limited driver legroom, some occasional rough shifts from the transmission, and its seven-passenger maximum capacity.

Options worth splurging on: We’d go with the S trim (adds about $1,600 to the base MSRP), which includes dual-screen DVD entertainment in the rear seats, 17-inch wheels,  and cosmetic accents both inside and out, including blacked-out headlamps.

Dodge Grand Caravan

2. Dodge Grand Caravan

Base price: $19,995

Fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds shared the same pros and cons as the Chrysler Town & Country, as the Dodge Grand Caravan is essentially the same model in a different suit. It is among the most affordable minivans on the market and is one of the most popular, too.

Options worth splurging on: The Grand Caravan doesn’t come with nearly the amount of standard features as the Chrysler, but that leaves some room to play with the options menu. The Caravan R/T (add about $10,000 to the base MSRP) is the most heavily loaded model and still comes up short of the cheapest Chrysler; in it, you’ll find a 115V auxiliary power outlet, an upgraded stereo, backup camera, leather-trimmed seats, 17-inch Satin Carbon aluminum wheels, and a whole lot more.


3. Honda Odyssey

Base price: $28,825

Fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon city, 28 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: The Honda (NYSE:HMC) Odyssey has long been a benchmark for the minivan industry, and Edmunds commended the Odyssey on its “agile” handling, fuel-efficient V6, quiet cabin and configurable second-row seat, and the easy-to-fold third-row seat. On the downside, Edmunds noted that the Odyssey is pricier — in its top spec, quite pricer — than some competitors.

Options worth splurging on: The Odyssey comes well equipped in its base LX trim, but the range-topping Touring Elite model, weighing in at a hefty $44,450, includes just about every conceivable option one can pack into a vehicle, plus Honda’s proprietary HondaVac built-in vacuum system.


4. Kia Sedona

Base price: $25,900

Fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon city, 24 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds commended the Kia’s smooth ride, comfortable and quiet cabin, and the long warranty coverage offered by the company. However, it felt that the Sedona was missing some newer convenience and safety features, and had a rather dated interior design.

Options worth splurging on: The EX trim package ($5,000) opens the doors of possibility with the Kia, enabling the choice of navigation system ($1,900) and a luxury package ($1,000), which includes a sunroof, adjustable pedals, and a rain-sensing windshield. If towing is a necessity, that can be taken care of with the tow hitch ($400).


5. Mazda Mazda5

Base price: $20,140

Fuel economy: 21 miles per gallon city, 28 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds noted that the Mazda5 was “easy to park and maneuver,” offered sharp handling, an affordable price, and easy third-row access. However, the site was disenchanted that it only seats six, is missing some popular minivan options (though it didn’t specify), and offers rather slow acceleration — on top of that, the fuel economy isn’t that much better than that of full-size minivans.

Options worth splurging on: Fog lights ($350) are always a safe precaution for if the weather turns sour, and for long trips with the kids, an overhead DVD system can be had for $1,200. All-weather floor mats ($100) will help save the carpeting, and if you bump up to the Grand Touring model ($22,270), you get more paint options, a remote engine start option ($400), and a moonroof and audio package ($1,020).


6. Nissan Quest

Base price: $25,990

Fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon highway, 25 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds appreciated the Nissan (NSANY.PK) Quest’s ”quiet and smooth ride,” its roomy and easily configurable seating, the excellent continuously variable transmission, the sharp steering and handling, and the fold-flat second-row seats. However, the Quest offers less cargo space than its competition, and Edmunds noted it was short on interior storage space.

Options worth splurging on: There are no packages available for the base S trim model, but the SL model offers options for better audio ($1,150) and a DVD entertainment system ($2,100). The range-topping LE trim will put nearly all of Nissan’s options into the minivan (navigation, improvements all around, etc.), but it’ll be approaching a Honda-like price of almost $45,000.


7. Toyota Sienna

Base price: $26,920

Fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway

Pros and cons: Edmunds enjoyed the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Sienna’s “smooth and powerful” V6 engine, its available all-wheel drive (the only AWD option in the segment), and the seven- or eight-passenger seating potential. However, it noted some lower-grade plastics in cabin, and the usefulness of the optional Entune system is “diminished by a cumbersome setup process.”

Options worth splurging on: There are no packages available for the base model, though the LE ($31,350) model enables the all-wheel drive option (about $2,000) and the Entune system with navigation ($1,045). Other trims allow for more package options, with more safety and entertainment features.

More from Wall St. Cheat Sheet: