Minivans aren’t the same boring people movers your parents used for the soccer carpool. Auto manufacturers are working overtime to bring style to the staid market, and they’re packing them full of the latest technology inside and out. They’re hoping to appeal to a younger generation of savvy car buyers — with big families and gear in tow — who often reluctantly need to go big to go home.
The minivan market is a little smaller this year, but choosing the right vehicle is still a difficult decision. To help readers figure out the differences between each model, Babble asked me to compare all the minivans on the market. In addition to taking them for a spin, I examined the seating options and cargo capacity, and looked for family friendly technology options. For a more comprehensive review of each vehicle, we also cross-checked with Consumer Reports to find the Customer Satisfaction rating from current owners. — Liane Yvkoff
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4 / 6
Top minivan overall | 2013 Honda Odyssey
MSRP: $28,575 – $43,925
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/28 mpg
A lot of minivans claim to drive like a regular car, but the 2011 Honda Odyssey comes the closest to backing up that claim. With 248-hp from its V6 engine and drying dynamics borrowed from the Honda Accord, the Odyssey is actually pretty fun to drive. In fact, until you look in the rear-view mirror, you may even forget that you’re steering a minivan.
Flowing lines, arched windows, and visible sliding door rails make the Honda Odyssey the most aggressively styled minivan on the market. Its unconventional window design may not appeal to some buyers, but the draw of the minivan is inside the vehicle, not out.
The Honda has a lot of mom- and family-friendly features, including a hook in the front passenger footwell that holds a purse, or more likely, a plastic garbage bag. An A/C-cooled compartment in the center stack can keep bottles and snacks chilled on hot days. The 2013 model ups its safety offerings by making a rear-view backup camera a standard feature on all models, including the base Odyssey LX. The rear-view backup camera will help the driver see obstacles in the car’s path when the vehicle is in reverse.
The 2013 Odyssey is powered by a 248-horsepower engine paired with a 5-speed transmission on all models except the Odyssey Touring, which offers a 6-speed transmission. Its powertrain may be less robust than others on the market, but the tradeoff means savings at the gas pump. This minivan offers the best fuel economy in its class, and is estimated to achieve 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
SEATING + STORAGE
What sets the Odyssey apart from other minivans are its expandable second-row seats. The three seats can expand farther apart from each other so you can fit three car seats across the second row if needed. And if junior is strapped in the middle seat, parents will love that it slides forward, bringing it closer to the front row.
Like other minivans, the Odyssey offers ample cargo room. But instead of fancy powerfold seats, Honda keeps its simple with straps that fold the third-row seats flat into the floor. However, second row only seats tilt forward.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The entry-level 2013 Honda Odyssey now includes an 8-inch, full-color intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID). The 8-inch display will make it easier to use the audio system, but the standard Bluetooth HandsFreeLink for voice control of the system means you shouldn’t need to use the touch-screen display very much. A USB outlet is available to power your mobile devices and integrate your smartphone’s contact list and music with the audio system, and Bluetooth Audio streaming makes it possible to stream online music apps from your phone to the entertainment system. The available voice-controlled navigation system includes Zagat restaurant guides and FM Traffic (no subscription required), but the interface could use an update, which may come next year when the Odyssey is refreshed.
For the elective rear entertainment system, there are two options: a single 9-inch on EX models or a 16-inch ultra-wide split screen on the Odyssey Touring Elite model. While other minivans have separate screens for the second and third row, a single, ceiling-mounted 16-inch screen has its advantages. The ultrawide screen can show side-by-side pictures, which is helpful if you have two little ones in the back who want to watch different videos or play different games. The configuration also makes room for an optional moon roof in the rear cabin.
IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Consumer Reports gives the 2013 Honda Odyssey a score of 83 out of 100, and 78 percent of owners would purchase the vehicle again.
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