A Closer Look-Four Midsize Vans
Midsize vans arrived on the scene in the mid-1980s with the debut of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. The 7-passenger "mini" vans were smaller, more comfortable, and much more fuel efficient than the truck-based vans that had roamed the roads decades earlier. Unlike their predecessors, which were built on heavy-duty truck frames with heavy-duty truck suspension components, the new "minivans" were based on significantly lighter car platforms that featured independent suspensions and resulted in a much smoother and more comfortable ride.
As the high cost of fuel turns consumers towards more economical vehicles, many families are looking toward the Midsize Van segment. This popular segment in North America is comprised of models like the Kia Sedona, Volkswagen Routan, Nissan Quest and the Chevrolet Uplander. It also includes four models that each sold in excess of 8,500 units in April 2010: the Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Caravan and the Toyota Sienna. These models generated total retail sales volume of 43,118 units in April 2010 compared to sales of 46,185 units for the entire segment during that month.
Let's take a closer look at these four minivans. While all of these models are sold in a handful of trim levels, we've decided to compare the 6-cylinder front-wheel-drive models with similar-displacement engines.
Dimensions and interior room
Minivans are smaller than their full-size cousins, but are still capable of maximizing utility and passenger space. All of these vans are within a couple inches of each other in length; in fact, it's nearly impossible to tell which is longest without a tape measure. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country (202.5 inches) stretch the tape the furthest-they share chassis platforms and mechanicals. The two twins are followed by the Honda Odyssey (202.1 inches) and Toyota Sienna (200.2).
Wheelbase is defined as the distance between the front and rear wheel axles. While a longer wheelbase is often associated with improved ride quality (which is one reason why limousines have very long wheelbases), it may hinder maneuverability in larger vehicles as it increases turning radius. The longest wheelbase of this group is found on the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country (121.2 inches), followed by the Toyota Sienna (119.3) and the Honda Odyssey (118.1). Interestingly, while the Honda Odyssey has the shortest wheelbase, it offers the most interior volume (171.4 cubic feet). The Toyota Sienna (164.4 cubic feet), Chrysler Town & Country (163.5) and Dodge Grand Caravan (156.1) follow. As expected in this segment, all of these models are fitted with fold-down (and removable) seating to further increase passenger capacity and utility.