With the growing popularity of crossover vehicles, what does the future hold for the minivan? Ford Motor Company and General Motors no longer sell traditional minivans, but in recent years, new players have come to market including Hyundai and Kia. Mercedes-Benz even offers the R-Class, a "kind-of" minivan. Click ahead to see what shows up in our crystal ball ...
Perhaps when you dream about the future of minivans, this is what you see? It is the Volkswagen Microbus Concept, a one-off vehicle built to create excitement at auto-shows. VW first showed this van in 2001 and it looked as if it would be produced as a 2005 model. It wasn't. Recently, rumors of its return surfaced with news of VW's new plant in Tennessee. Should they build it?
Nissan showed their Forum concept minivan during the 2007-08 auto show season. The design moves forward on a platform that is sized similarly to current minivans, but puts a modern spin on things with its glass roof and pillar-less door openings. The Forum points to the next generation of minivan from Nissan, but there is no word on plans for production.
Minivan-type vehicles have such appeal that even BMW is considering building one. Their PAS (Progressive Activity Sedan) Concept uses a rear hatch to provide access to a cargo area larger than their current X6 crossover. The mechanicals under this four-passenger "utility vehicle" are related to the next-gen 5-Series sedan. Expect to see the concept at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show this fall.
Hyundai has shown their HED-5 i-Mode at major auto shows in 2008-09. The design is smaller than a traditional minivan, with a lower, sleeker design. The rear doors slide to the rear, revealing a completely open interior free of a B-pillar. This design may not make production for side-impact safety reasons, but the overall size and interior flexibility reveal possible trends.
Many of you will recognize this vehicle as the 2009 Mazda5. Why is this tall-wagon included in this gallery? It's clearly not a minivan, nor is it a concept. Answer: The Mazda5 represents what some AOL Autos editors think minivan buyers want in terms of a more affordable and more fuel-efficient design that still has room for a family. Think of it as a HED-5 i-Mode you can drive today.
Slightly larger than the current Mazda5, the all-new Chevy Orlando will go on sale next year and offer seating for up to seven. The van-like four-door rides on the same platform as the new Chevy Spark, a traditional compact sedan also coming in 2010 as a 2011 model. Expect four-cylinders from the Ecotec engine family, so economy should be good.
A fixture on European streets, Ford is launching their Transit Connect van here. The van is designed for commercial use, but it is conceivable that enterprising companies will create custom vans for personal transportation uses. Unlike other vehicles that offer the commodious interior of the Transit Connect, the new Ford offers superior fuel economy of 19 mpg city, 24 mpg.
Building on their popular minivan platform, Chrysler is currently showing an electrically powered version of their Town & Country. The van's electric motor produces 268 horsepower for solid performance. It will run 40 miles on pure battery power, and after that a small gasoline engine starts in order to recharge the batteries, delivering a total range of approximately 400 miles.