Due to the popularity of last week’s post, The Family’s New Car, I decided to go ahead and evaluate minivans.     I researched  four top picks:  The Mazda5, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Nissan Quest, and the Toyota Sienna.  Good luck shoppers!

2012 Mazda5: There wasn’t enough information available for me to evaluate te 2013, so here is the 2012 information.  With a starting price of $22,975 for a top-of-the line Mazda5, the Mazda5 undercuts the other minivans by almost $4,000.  It is fun to drive, seats six, and looks good while doing it.  The Mazda5 has a small 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine that has Mazda’s Skyactive engine technology.  This engine pumps out a somewhat-measly 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque.  When loaded down with five people and luggage, the engine struggles to keep the car at 70.  However, the Mazda5 is the only minivan that gets relatively good mileage.  It gets 21/28 city/highway.  Power is fed to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic that is relatively quick, yet outdated for today’s standards.  The Mazda5 has the lowest monthly fuel cost of the four minivans mentioned at $203.  But, the Mazda5 has the smallest fuel tank of the bunch at 15.9 gallons.  Bluetooth, A/C  and climate control, heated/cooled seats, Satellite Radio, and leather are standard and/or in the Mazda5.  All-season tires, a power glass sunroof, and Alloy wheels are also standard.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child-seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, stability control, and traction control are all standard, as well.  The Mazda5 is also relatively spacious.  It is relatively quiet for a minivan, with noise levels mainly staying with minimal amounts of wind noise.

The 2013 Nissan Quest is the car that Motor Trend dubbed the unspoken hero of the minivan world.  With an invoice of $24,222, the Quest undercuts the Chrysler Town & Country by almost $4,000.  It is remarkably fun to drive, with responsive steering, good power delivery, comfortable seating for seven, amazing visibility.  It’s 3.5 liter V6 is shared across the Nissan board, and it is smooth and powerful.  It’s fuel tank can hold up to 20 gallons.  Plus, the Quest gets 19/25 city/highway, with a monthly fuel bill running you $232.  With 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque coming from the engine, the Quest seems like it is a bit underpowered on paper.  When you drive it, there are substantial amounts of torque on demand.  The CVT transmission is smooth, but it buzzes when the engine revs above 4500 rpm.  Considering the fact many CVT’s are noisy transmissions, the Quest’s CVT is smooth.  Bluetooth is standard on the SV trim and above.  Keyless ignition is standard on the S model.  The interior is cloth, but don’t let that throw you off from buying an S.  The seats are supportive and comfortable for long road trips.  All-season tires are standard on the S.  However, the Quest is the only minivan available with steel wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, traction control and stability control are all standard.  The Quest is also one of the most spacious minivans on the market, with almost 60 cubic inches of rear legroom.

The Chrysler Town & Country is the most powerful minivan available for purchase currently.  Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6 is the only engine option, yet it produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.  It is also the most expensive minivan that one can buy for a base model.  It costs $28,735.  However, the Town & Country has a lot going for it.  It’s six-speed automatic has been retuned for maximum fuel-efficiency.  The Town & Country gets okay mileage at 17/25 city/highway.  It also has the largest monthly fuel bill of $243.  A/C with climate control, bluetooth, a built-in hard-drive, navigation, power seats, rear-seat DVD, Satellite Radio, and leather are all standard and/or optional on the base model.  All-season tires are mounted on alloy wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, stability control, traction control are all standard and/or optional.  The EPA says that the Town & Country has up to 196.5 cubic inches of interior room just itching to be used.  Plus, the Town & Country is fun to drive, due to the fact that it has perfect amounts of torque at almost any rpm over 1,000 rpm.  The Town & Country also has responsive steering, but tire howl can be easily achieved by going around a corner too fast.  The Town & Country also has comfortable leather that is standard across the board.

The 2013 Toyota Sienna has long been a bestseller in the minivan segment.  However, the 2011 redesign brought substantial updates but funky looks.  To many (including me), the Sienna looks like a cross between a pug and a bullfrog.  It has a V6 engine that is standard (a four-cylinder was available until the 2012 model year, then cut) that produces 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque.  It is responsive and quick, but it gets very loud under acceleration.  Drivers will not appreciate the large rearview mirror when driving forward.  With fuel economy ratings of 18/25 city/highway, the Sienna has a monthly fuel bill of $232.  Bluetooth, rear-seat DVD, Satellite Radio, cloth, an iPod dock are all standard/optional.  All-season tires are mounted on alloy wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, and stability control and traction control are all standard/optional.

My first choice to Mom would be the Mazda5.  However, we may need that extra seat, so the Quest would be next on the list.  After that, I would recommend the Town & Country, as it is a good blend of looks, power, and comfort.  The Sienna is last, due to the fact that it is slower than all of the others except for the Mazda5, and it is not very much fun to drive.  If I had to buy any one of these minivans, I would have to go with the Mazda5.  Why?  It looks good, it’s adequately powered, and it is barrels of fun to drive.

8 thoughts on “The Family’s New Car – Minivan Style

  1. Very thorough reviews! I suggest you also compare their crash test safety ratings. Amazingly, it has only been since last year that female crash test dummies are a mandatory part of frontal crash testing. They fare quite differently from male crash test dummies.

    For example, the Toyota Sienna’s five star rating on frontal crashes fell to TWO stars as a result of including the female dummy. Remind me not to ride in the front seat of my minivan.

    The two independent crash-test information sources are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a branch of the Department of Transportation, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a safety-research group sponsored by the insurance industry.

    Some news items on this topic:

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