— The functionality is off-the-charts. From the multiple ways you can open and close the doors to the sheer volume of stuff you can load into them, minivans are leaders in user experience.
— The cargo volume is immense and usable. We were able to simply pack up our lives and go to Destin, Fla., for a week on the Gulf. Two adults and a 1-year-old had plenty of space and creature comforts for the drive from Michigan. We moved the passenger seat forward so there was a mini pod in the second row where my wife and baby spent most of the time. During a brief spell from driving, I nestled back there for a bit, sipping coffee and playing cards on the seat-mounted entertainment screen.
— In back, our manifest was prodigious. A cooler. A beach blanket. Beach chairs. Three large suitcases. A Pack 'n Play. A baby chair. Food. Boxes of wipes and diapers. A stroller. Beer and wine. Jellycat. Way more things that I've forgotten. It was also the maiden voyage for our Britax Boulevard ClickTight carseat, which fit securely. Installing a carseat easily is one of life's simple joys. The 2018 Pacifica Hybrid lists 197.3 cubic feet of cargo volume, and we used most of it.
— We did have some space left over, which was actually more impressive to me. When three people can drive across the country with everything they need for a week and then wonder what else they maybe should bring, that speaks volumes (I know) to the usability of the cargo volume. On an earlier trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we took all of this stuff plus a golden retriever, her crate, her food and camping gear. And still had room left over.
— The Pacifica has a 24.3-inch lift-over height, which means it's easy to load. You can put the seats down and still reach far into the cargo hold. That's the beauty of minivans. Our family has a three-row SUV that you have to stretch to load and unload. We thought we wanted an SUV. We didn't realize we actually wanted a minivan.
— And therein lies the inherent beauty of minivans. I've spent a lot of time in the Pacifica, and the Honda Odyssey, with which the Chrysler vies for class supremacy, is similarly easy to load and unload. They're designed with the mission of hauling people and stuff. SUVs don't have that clarity of purpose. They're big and capable and buyers like them because they offer more curb appeal than minivans, but give me sliding doors any day over curvy wheel arches or skid plates.
— Sure a Jeep or a Toyota 4Runner is cooler than a minivan, but the latest generation of the Pacifica is an undeniably attractive vehicle. The head- and taillights are elegant. The sides have attractive curves and flourishes. The rolling brick or bubble that's associated with minivans is toned down here. It's not the sleekest silhouette, but it's arguably the best-looking minivan ever. The Odyssey is also pretty attractive.
— The Pacifica Hybrid has FCA's famed Stow 'n Go seating in the third row, which drops down easily with a couple of tugs on the straps. When that row is up there's a nice little repository in the back that's good for groceries, golf clubs and even luggage.
— The doors. How many ways can you open and close them? The buttons on the door handles and inside the van are the best. But the key fob is also good. Wisely, Chrysler doesn't try to force one method onto users. Holding a child and groceries is a dynamic experience. Sometimes you open the doors from the living room with the fob. Maybe trip the auto-start, too. In close quarters you bump the button on the handle with your elbow. Once everyone is settled, I like to push the button inside the cabin and step back as the door slides shut. The driver also has ultimate authority and can run things from the bridge. Short of offering telepathy, Chrysler thought of it all.
— Speaking of up front, I like the driver's area. The gauges glow with a bit of old-school bling. I'm probably projecting the great Chrysler Imperials and 300s from the '50s onto this, but it's an elegant instrument panel. The interior is quiet. When everyone's settled or napping, the driver is largely insulated from wind and road noise as the miles melt away. We made it from metro Detroit to Birmingham, Ala., in one day. I felt my stamina growing inside the Pacifica as we pushed on. North became South. The temperatures reluctantly rose. We were in northern Alabama before we knew it, passing by markers for Lincoln's birthplace, the Chevy Corvette factory and other bits of Americana. We did the complete trip in one shot on the way back.
— The Pacifica is rated at 84 mpg-e. We just ran the charge down before we left Michigan and drove it like a conventional hybrid all the way to Florida. Our best mileage was 30.5 mpg for our time in Destin, which was largely city driving, but we were achieving close to 30 for many stints on the highway.
It's pretty simple. Minivans are about functionality. They get the job done. From the multiple ways you can open and close the doors to the sheer volume of stuff you can load into them, minivans are leaders in user experience. It's a modern term for an old segment, but it's apt. You really do want a minivan, and the Pacifica Hybrid is a good one.