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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Top tech in minivan | 2013 Nissan Quest
MSRP: $27,750 – $41,350
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/25 mpg
Parents placing a premium on convenience features will find a lot to like in the 2013 Nissan Quest. Innovative technology is the focus of this 7-seater minivan. But it’s not just about automation and electronics — this people mover offers style and comfort that aims to take the effort out of errands.
Equipped with a 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, the Quest falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to power. However, it’s paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission to give the vehicle smoother acceleration than a 5- or 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is somewhat average for the class, and is expected to achieve 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
Base models often skimp on technology, but the 2013 Nissan Quest S includes keyless entry and push-button start. This feature makes it easy to jump into the driver’s seat, because even if the keys are burried at the bottom of a bag, as long as they’re within close proximity of the vehicle, the door will automatically unlock. Push-button ignition means keys never have to leave your pocket or purse to start the car, either. Step up to the next trim level and the Quest add one-touch power sliding doors. With this feature, a light touch on the handle of the rear doors will automatically unlock the door and open it without any force. The same convenient technology applies to the liftgate to make it easy to load cargo without fumbling for the keys.
The Advanced Climate Control System (ACCS) and built-in air purifier is included with the Touring model. The intelligent HVAC system automatically turns on auto recirculation when it detects pollution or odors in the vehicle to filter the air — a must for families on the go.
On models LE and above, the seven-seater minivan now offers standard AroundView Monitor. This safety technology is a system of four cameras mounted on the front, sides, and rear of the vehicle to provide a 360-degree view of surrounding objects, and displays multiple views on the split-screen display. This feature should help drivers maneuver the vehicle in and out of tight parking spaces, and keep an eye out for other vehicles, pedestrians, and any obstacles in their path — crucial when you’ve got a bunch of kids in the backseat, or need to slide into that perfect parking space.
Also setting the 2013 Quest apart from other minivans on the market are its wrap-around windows, which curve around the rear of the car to give the impression of a floating roof, similar to the Ford Flex crossover.
SEATING + STORAGE
The rear cargo well has hinged covers that make it easier to stack groceries on top of sports equipment and help you maximize vertical storage space.
Unlike some minivans, the third-row seats fold forward rather than into the floor to open up 119.8 inches of cargo space. For families with lots of junk in the trunk, this means that you have the option of more floor space, and you won’t have to clear out the cargo area to get it. By the numbers, this layout loses a lot of vertical cargo capacity, but unless you’re moving a lot of tall items, you won’t miss it.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The entertainment system on the 2013 Nissan Quest S base model is basic. The SV and SL models offer a 4.3-inch display to make it easier to use the audio system, and the top-of-the-line LE model features a 8-inch LCD display with navigation. However, none of the systems will earn awards for cutting-edge technology or usability. At least there is a 120-volt outlet and USB in the center console for convenient mobile-device charging.
The 2013 Nissan Quest is available with an optional DVD entertainment system on all trim levels except the base S model. Unlike other competitors, the rear entertainment system offers only one — albeit large — 11-inch screen in the rear cabin. But this entertainment option also upgrades the display screen in the dash from 4.3 to 7 inches.
IIHS reports good ratings for front- and side-impact tests, and acceptable ratings for rollover crashes.
Consumer Reports gives the 2013 Nissan Quest a score of 81 out of 100, and 72 percent of owners said they would purchase this vehicle again.
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