Minivans are a popular choice for Americans. And despite the fact that there are only eight to choose from, with just three accounting for most of the sales, there is a lot of difference of opinion about which is the best bet.
Here at AOL Autos, we like the Chrysler Town & Country, but a previous editor here preferred the Honda Odyssey. J.D. Power says the Honda Odyssey (last generation) ranks at the top for reliability after three years of ownership with consumers. But Power ranked the new design of the Chrysler tops after three months of ownership.
Meantime, Consumer Reports ranks the Toyota Sienna as tops for reliability.
It's tough to get a minivan design right with shoppers. General Motors and Ford couldn't get it right, so they bailed out of the category. Hyundai marketed one briefly. but it got out as well. Nissan and Volkswagen continue to struggle with their entries.
The dominant players are Chrysler/Dodge, Honda and Toyota.
AOL Autos has put together a short guide to help you make a more informed decision about your next minivan purchase. Combining our picks with those of several other prominent auto reviewers, this list contains an overview of what you need to know about each offering in the segment.
Who Rates It Tops: No one we are aware of.
Why: Nissan has not done anything to show innovative design on its minivan. The third row of seats does not even fold flat away. Clever design and utility are key to minivan design, and Nissan didn't bring its A-game.
What we say: If you aren't going to take it seriously, why not exit the category as Ford and GM did.
Price: $27,750 - $41,350
Current incentives: 0% APR financing for 60 months
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Who Rates It Tops: No one we are aware of.
Why: Kia is out to be the lowest cost minivan in the segment.
What we say: It's not a bad minivan at all, especially if you can get it in the $23K to $26K range.
Price: $24,900 - $29,190
Current incentives: 1.9% APR financing for 36 months
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Who Rates It Tops: J.D. Power & Associates Vehicle Dependability Study and Consumer Reports.
Why: It has the lowest number of complaints and reports of "things gone wrong" over a three year period in the JDP rating. CR admits the Sienna is not as "nice" as the previous design, but it has had the lowest complaints for things gone wrong.
What we say: It is a very well-equipped minivan, and satisfies those who trust Toyota more than a Detroit or Korean make. The interior is more SpongeBob inspired than we like, but no one is going to tell you chose badly with the Sienna.
Price: $25,060 - $40,570
Current incentives: There are no current national incentives
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Who Rates It Tops: Strategic Vision Total Quality Study, Car and Driver
Why: Strategic Vision measures how much "delight" customers express in their survey responses about the vehicle. Sienna topped its Total Quality Study. Car and Driver says "the redesigned 2011 version keeps everything we liked (it’s still quite carlike to drive) and changes the styling to be less anonymous."
What we say: We like the Odyssey as our second overall pick after Chrysler Town & Country. Horizontally sliding rear seat is nice innovation. Sound engine and neat interior. It has a polarizing exterior design that can look downright ugly from certain angles.
Price: $28,075 - $43,525
Current incentives: 1.9% APR financing for 60 months
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Dodge Grand Caravan
Who Rates It Tops: No one we are aware of
Why: We're not sure, except that it is overshadowed by the pricier Chrysler Town & Country from the same manufacturer.
What we say: We are big fans of the stow-and-go system. We recommend checking out the R/T version, aka "The man van." The new interior design is very clean and attractive. Sure, it's a breadbox design, but new suspension tweaks have made it more car-like to drive.
Price: $21,800 - $30,695
Current incentives: $1,000 cash back
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Chrysler Town & Country
Who Rates It Tops: J.D. Power Initial Quality Study
Why: Customers polled about the 2011 T&C, which received a refreshed design, reported the fewest problems in the first 90 days of ownership. Power says that usually means the scores for long-term reliability will be good.
What we say: We love the redesigned interior, new Pentastar V6 engine and stow-and-go rear seat system
Price: $30,260 - $39,160
Current incentives: $1,000 cash back with the Chrysler 2011 Automobility program
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Who Rates It Tops: J.D. Power and Associates APEAL Study
Why: This study measures buyers' impressions of how well the car is designed and executed--quality of materials, etc. Since it polls actual customers, it means that VW buyers rated it very high.
What we say: The Routan is a Volkswagenized Town & Country minivan the company buys from Chrysler and sells through VW dealers. The German automaker designed the interior, but it does not have the stow-and-go system. Why buy a lesser T&C from VW? It doesn't make sense to us.
Price: $26,930 - $43,240
Current incentives: 0% APR financing for 72 months
Research the Volkswagen Routan
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