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SUV vs Minivans

skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
I'd be very interested to get people's opinions about benefits/downsides to a mini van vs. SUV, particularly for families of different sizes. Probably should cross-reference this with the Minivan Board, but I don't know how to do that. Anyone able to link this to the Minivan Board?

Some ideas/questions: third rows in SUVs-- how tolerable is it, after a while, having kids have to jump over seats to get back there? Drivability: many say "Mini vans drive better than SUVs" -- given the new SUVs out there, how true is this still? etc...


  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    My spouse and I are going thru the same discussion. Live in TX and wanting luxury-type vehicle with room for 7 part-time with most being adult sized. Looked and driven everything on market over last 3 months. Complicating this is company move in next 6 months to either warm or cold climate due to business relocation. Yukon XL/Excursion too large for spouse to feel comfortable in. Sequoia seems to be best overall SUV choice but would rather have AWD vs 4WD. GM vehicles too tight in 3rd row. LX470/Land Cruiser are too costly and use jump seats too. MDX was too noisey and didn't have best room but we were willing to sacrifice. Minivans have room but except for T&C most are luxury and reliability on T&C is concern. Looks like T&C will win out with either FWD or AWD since spouse is most comfortable in it and the vehicle will be 98% driven by her. Wish RX300 had 7 seating as have GS300 which is phenominal on reliability and service with excellent luxury & style.
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    I was in exactly the same boat six months ago. We needed room for five with a 3rd row for occasional extra passengers. We wanted AWD and a quiet, luxurious ride.

    My wife and I looked at the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Mazda MPV but ultimately decided we didn't want a minivan (looks and no AWD).

    Then we looked at the Acura MDX, Mercedes ML320, Mercury Mountaineer, and Dodge Durango. All had their advantages and disadvantes and we liked each for different reasons. Well, to cut to the chase, we finally decided on the Buick Rendezvous.

    The Buick is a quiet, comfortable vehicle that I hesitantly describe as 50% minivan / 50% SUV.

    It does seat seven adults (the 3rd row seat is comfortable enough for people under 6'0" tall) but there is limited storage with the 3rd row seat up. With the 3rd row folded down (it folds flat), you can comfortably seat five adults and it has terrific cargo capacity.

    It is available with AWD and can be equipped with every bell and whistle imaginable (leather, OnStar, rear sonar parking, head up display, memory seats/mirrors, heated seats, programmable door locks, etc.). By the way, build quality and fit and finish are also excellent.

    It's not for everyone (some think it's a little lacking in horsepower) but, considering what you're looking for, I think it is worth strong consideration.

    If you like, check out the Rendezvous forum or owner's club here at for some more insights.
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    How do you distribute your 5 people? That is, do you put 3 in the middle row or 2 in the middle and 1 in the third? How convenient is it?
  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    Based on your recommendation we glanced at the Buick yesterday. Not bad but having trouble with what appears to be cheaper build quality and snug in back seat with fit. Front end is too much like Pontiac Azteck (sp) for my liking. Has some unique features like the rear seat foot rests and AWD system. Anyone looked at 02' Merc Mountaineer yet, spouse saw one today and wondered how truck-like and interior room?
  • dardson1dardson1 Posts: 696
    If you don't tow or drive off-road a minivan is a wise choice. They drive better, ride better, and get decent gas milage with similar people hauling capabilities. I had four of the gotta-have SUV's before my current Sienna XLE and have to admit (since I never tow or drive off-road) the car does everything as well or better than the SUV's. It's very quiet, plenty quick, surprisingly smooth, and very user-friendly. It'll carry anything my SUV's would, gets 17mpg around town + 24mpg on the road, and drives just like a car. The question is....why don't I love it? I loved (and hated) something about each and every one of my SUV's. My Sienna is.....very well done, very dull, and I'm not sure why.
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    A very nice summary dardson1. If I can ask: what SUVs did you have? How many people do you typically cart around? How's the Sienna in the snow?
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    good points all.

    skimmel - When traveling with five, we put 3 in the middle row and keep the 3rd row folded down. We have found that, even with 2 child seats in the middle row, there is ample room in between for a 3rd adult. Seating six with cargo is where you must be creative! It involves placing cargo on the floor and on an unoccupied seat (outboard 3rd row) and then seating 3 in the 2nd row and 1 in the 3rd row. You can carry everything comfortably, but it is not as convenient as a minivan.

    This is where we made the trade-off. A little less convenience for more style, luxury, and All Wheel Drive.

    aggie - I agree with your basic opinion. I do think the front is MUCH better looking than the Aztek, and also resembles the RAV4 a little. It is the weird headlights that give it that look. I guess it's personal...I like the looks just fine, though admittedly, not quite as well as the Mountaineer. As for the 3rd row, I found that it is the biggest and most comfortable of all the three row SUV's...but not as roomy as a minivan. I will say that my wife and I loved the Mountaineer and think it is easily as nice as the Buick, for different reasons. We gave the nod to Buick because it was several thousand dollars cheaper (with my discounts) and had a lot more luxury options for the money. If the two had been even-money, I may have gone with the Merc instead. I disagree with your impression of build quality (interior plastic). The Merc is no better than the Buick (although, the fake aluminum dash dresses up the Merc nicely). The Buick also has a much more sedan-like ride.

    BTW, what was the interior color of the Buick you saw? If you saw a tan one, you owe it to yourself to see the grey interior. IMO, it looks much better...and comparable to the Merc.

    Finally, the Buick is a minivan in SUV clothing. The Merc is a pick-up truck in SUV clothing.
  • dardson1dardson1 Posts: 696
    [A very nice summary dardson1. If I can ask: what SUVs did you have? How many people do you typically cart around? How's the Sienna in the snow?]

    Had a 92 Explorer, 94 Jeep GC, 96 Tahoe, and a 98 Expedition. I was pretty much "why in the world didn't somebody think of this thing before" when I bought the Explorer. Never a problem, plenty big, well finished, but TERRIBLE ride. Jeep was very fun to drive, no problems, better ride although "jiggly", and too small made smaller by the spare in the back. Tahoe was big, beefy, quick, and an old GM design that showed it's age with the worst set of brakes I've ever experienced. Expedition I liked best of all....but it was a bit too tall and got horrible gas milage.
    I rarely carry more than 4 passengers in the Sienna....mostly just me and my wife. We got a rare West Texas 8" snow last winter. It did great which is my experience with most FWD cars. I ought to love my Toyota. Aside from a few rattles I finally managed to fix, it has been flawless since I bought it in October; however, Toyota has a way of dumbing-down their cars 'til they have no personality. It does everything well, but nothing so well you fall in love.
  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    It was the tan, maybe I need to make another, more in-depth visit of Buick. Another issue we are dealing with is step in height and rear jump-in height for elderly riders & elderly labrador's. That's where minivans really seem to excel due to clearances. Anyone with experience of AWD T&C vs. SUV's in Chicago-area winter weather?
  • I have had a 1997 Ford Expedition for a few years and I have had no problems whatsoever. This is the best vehicle that I have ever owned. It has 90K miles on it and is running as new. I should of gone with the 5.4 but I bought the 4.6. The power is good but I wouldnt mind a few more horses. I did not even think about buying a van because I did not like the way any of them look. I also like modding cars so a minivan is out of the question. The third row seat is ok but I highly recommend that it be used to transport children and not adults. I was also thinking of buying the ML320 but I found that it was not as roomy as I had hoped for. Also I love the rear ac for the kids in the back in the the Expy. Hope the info helps.
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    So, so far, it seems like minivans are the most practical for lugging around lots of people/things, but people are more attracted to SUVs and the 4WD on them. I guess this is the standard mantra, but didn't know if real world experience suggests that SUVs are really practical.
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    It sounds like a minivan is the way to go for you. Anything else would be a compromise.

    The only thing you'll miss out on is AWD, unless you go with Chrysler. I think the 2002's are quite attractive...inside and out.
  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    Went this afternoon to local T&C dealer and relooked at T&C Ltd and realized that despite all the luxury & gadgets, some items were cheaper looking like plastic wood and dash area. Drove it 30 minutes and entire family upon leaving admitted that none of us were sold on it. Stopped by Toyota and drove both Sequoia and Sienna and now debating between the two. Wish Sienna had a touch more room and curtain air bags with some emotional attachment to love. Fallen for Sequoia myself, spouse hesitating on size in parking lots and gas mileage. AAAGGGGG!
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    You seem to have hit upon the dilemma that started this Board -- I'll be very curious to see what you decide and why.
  • dardson1dardson1 Posts: 696
    I found the rear seat architecture on the SUV's I owned easier to use. Just push here and pull there and you've got a relatively flat cargo area. I qualify that by saying only the Expedition had third-row-seats which I immediately took out and stored in the garage. The usable cargo space in my Sienna which is sizable (I think Edmunds specs 144cf with all the rear seats out) is difficult to accomplish. Gotta pull out those heavy seats, put them somewhere while you're using all this space, and then put them back. It's really a two-man job. Those dang seats are heavy.
    Like my Expedition, I took out the rear seats in the Sienna (never carry that many people) and I've got a fair sized cargo area + room for four passengers. On a day to day basis the arrangement on an SUV is best. Maybe Honda has it figured out with their fold-away rear seats.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Good points - I actually threw away the middle bench in my Quest and made it into a 5 seater with a big empty behind the sliding bench. I can't haul plywood, but it's pretty handy for most stuff.

    Vans, SUVs and Aftermarket & Accessories Message Boards

  • yzfyzf Posts: 65

    Have you considered the 2002 minivans from GM scheduled to come out shortly (i.e., Chevy Venture, Pontiac Montana, Oldsmobile Silhouette)? My wife and I recently got a 2001 Olds Silhouette Premiere and love it. It has comfortable seating for up to seven adults (driver plus front passenger, second row captain's chairs, third row bench). When not hauling seven, the rear seat folds flat forward and provides huge storage capacity. We also got the tow package (oil/trans cooler, heavy duty radiator, bigger brakes) with a hitch that allows us tow small loads (up to 3,500 lbs). We have dual power sliding doors (a nice luxury) and the Premiere package with VCP/video display, rear compressor/air shocks, traction control (for those rare winter snows), leather, heated seats, rear park aid, etc. etc. It's definitely our luxury vehicle.

    I say the 2002's because I noted that AWD is a must for you. My understanding is the GM vehicles will have AWD as an option for 2002. Seems like you could have the AWD and room you're looking for combined with the ease of driving and parking your wife is seeking. BTW - my wife who has never driven anything bigger than my Camaro (hates it), likes the minivan's maneuverability. With the rear parking aid, she actually enjoys parking the minivan!

    Just some food for thought.

    ps: price and gas mileage on the GM's should also be vastly superior to a similarly equipped SUV.
  • javadocjavadoc Posts: 1,167
    Did you try the Highlander? That might be up your alley. IMO, it might be a good SUV/minivan compromise. What part of the country do you live that requires awd/4wd?

  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    Well, waiting long enough has caused more debate in the household. Will look this weekend at Explorer/Mountaineer editions after wife talked with friend who's son-in-law & daughter just bought XLT one. Seems to have room for 7 and luxury items too. RE: Highlander - really want seating for 7 and on GM vans they just leave us both cold. Funny to feel that way with relatives working in plant that makes them and in sales at GM dealers. Even the discounts don't attract us enough to go there. I still like the Sequoia but can't get spouse there yet!!!
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    Aggie76: What happened with the Sienna? Also, did you ever consider the Honda Odyssey? Or, or you settled on an SUV?
  • dardson1dardson1 Posts: 696
    I'd be a little afraid of a hot-off-the-press Ford. I like how the new Explorer looks, but I never buy 1st year models. Have you looked at the Expedition? I had a '98 and loved everything about it but the gas milage. They're tried and true and seem to be nearly as cheap as Explorers with all the incentives.
  • bessbess Posts: 972
    I recently just replaced my Ford Windstar with a Ford Escape SUV..

    While we had children less than 2 years old, the mini-van was by far the best choice for us.. There's just alot of 'stuff' to haul around day to day, and especially on trips, (strollers, high-chairs, portable cribs, diaper bags, etc..)

    My wife and I just didn't like this particular Windstar (99 LX) as it developed spark knock (for the third time), the interior had some rattles (again), and the interior also an electrical problem where the interior lights would sometimes blink off/on, and an oil leak (repaired under warranty).. It also didn't have some features that we should have gotten (thats my fault for buying this van, no adjustable seats, no cd-player), and also found some quirks that I didn't like non-factory dealer installed keyless remote entry locked doors upon startup rather than 5mph, would not allow the vehicle to start unless you press the unlock on the fob etc.. Ok, enough excuses, we just didn't like it..

    This was our second mini-van, as we origionally had a 95 Windstar, which had no problems but we wanted 4 doors in late 98 because of our 2nd child.

    I also like to keep vehicles for a long time if possible (over 100k miles, 7+ years), but wasn't sure the current van was up to the task.. Unlike many previous Fords we've owned that are still running with 220k miles on them.

    So I started looking into the options.. All of the other mini-vans were nice, such as the Honda Odyessey, Dodge Caravan etc, but to get the the van that we would like, the cost was in the 28k range.. ouch.. So I told the wife, the Windstar is just fine, everything will get fixed under warranty and we'll just drive it, theres nothing wrong with it...
    Then she mentioned, have you looked into the SUV's? Well, my first thought is that SUV's are generally more expensive than mini-vans and that they generally have less storage space that mini-vans.. The storage space was not as much of an issue, as the kids are over 2 and 5, there's alot less to pack for trips now.. So we started by looking only at the mid-size SUV's (like Explorers, Blazers etc). I was suprised to see they the cost for these was in the same range as a new mini-van, but still more than we wanted to pay..

    Then we looked at the Escape (a mini-suv).. The front and rear seat room was the same as the larger SUV's, just the cargo area was shortened. Then we took it for a drive (3.0L 4x2).. WOW.. It handled much better than any of the mini-vans we drove and had ALOT more acceleration. And it gets better MPG's than most mini-vans as well. The ride was 'firm' but not jolting as I expected. Mostly because it weighs alot less than a minivan.. It had all of the features and options we wanted, and all for around 20k..
    We got a fair price for the van, and paid a few hundred over invoice for the Escape and we drove it home..
    The kids love it, the wife loves it, and I'm extremely pleased with it..

    The only thing we're really giving up? On long trips I have to use the roof rack for 1 or 2 bags.. I never had to use the roof rack with the mini-van..
  • Bess - it sounds like a Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable Stationwagon would have fit the bill for you as well. Just an idea - but it does look like you found a vehicle that is the right size for you.

    Congrats on not buying an Expedition/Yukon type vehicle. There are too many in your position who have made that mistake.
  • aggie76aggie76 Posts: 266
    Well, after more test driving and agonizing, we've made a choice. Went and drove/examined in detail the Ford Explorer EB/Ltd and was shocked at limited rear seat and cheap materials. Salesman was worthless - couldn't answer questions and when handle for storage area pulled out he was shocked and didn't even say anything to me. We left. Went back to Acura for another drive of MDX and given choices of Sequoia, Minivans, we decided to go with MDX for our needs.

    Wow, what a trial by fire.
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    You really put a lot of thought and effort into your decision, and it payed off. As all of us in your boat found out, their is no perfect vehicle...each has it's own strength/weakness compromise.

    My wife and I were both very impressed with the MDX and strongly considered it when we were shopping for our SUV.

    It sounds like you picked the best vehicle for your needs and are happy with your choice. Enjoy!
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    Congratulations from me as well. And thanks for sharing your experience. It helps others to hear your thought process.
  • stacystacy Posts: 91
    the 4wd sequoia can be kept in that mode at all times without damaging the vehicle, making it basically a permanent 4wd suv if you keep it in this mode. This info is readily available all over the suv board and the Toyota mechanics of this are all discussed in one of the chat rooms in the suv area. So - if this is an important issue for you, dont let the 4wd system scare you out of an suv which you like. just some food for thought. hope this might help some of you.
  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,729
    If you don't tow or go off-road but need to haul people and/or a lot of stuff, you can't beat a mini-van. I just traded our Mecury Villager in on a '01 Pathfinder LE. After a week I already miss the room of the Villager, and that wasn't even a large mini-van. I would have purchased another mini-van if we didn't have a boat to tow. Now I don't have to worry about how far the lake is or how steep the lauch ramp is. With an SUV I hardly notice the boat is behind us and I don't have the feeling that the transmission may fail at any moment due to the weight I was pulling. I'm not ashamed of having an SUV because I have a genuine need for one. If it wasn't for our boat, I'd have a sport sedan or a mini-van that would drive as nice or better, and get much higher fuel economy.
  • The Honda Odyssey is a far superior "kid and stuff mover" when compared to the Sequoia. The Toyota suffers from a high step-in height for when your twins start to walk. The Honda is easier to drive, has more cargo space, handles better, has a more flexible seating arrangement, gets better fuel economy, and (short of AWD) comes with pretty much everything you can get on the Sequoia - all at a lower price.

    For your needs, this one is pretty much a no-brainer. Big SUVs have their place in this world, but carting around children isn't their strong suit. Tell your wife to get over it - the car doesn't make the person.

    Here's what I would suggest. Make her drive the two vehicles back-to-back (make her park them, too) and then have her look you in the eye and tell you which one she would rather drive on a daily basis. I am confident that the Odyssey will win - and given the lower price, so will you.
  • For a long time, I've been looking for a vehicle with the best combination of SUV and VAN. As most of you would agree, 2001 Honda Odyssey is the best minivan this year, and 2001 ACURA MDX is the best SUV this year. I like the 2001 Ody, but it lacks the horse power, entertainment system, and leather of MDX's luxury. I like the ACURA MDX, but it doesn't have the roomy and convenience of the Honda Ody.

    The new 2002 Ody has changed everything. The new 2002 Ody put the best combination of both 2001 Ody and 2001 MDX. The new 2002 Ody added MDX's 240-hp 3.5 liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 engine, it also added MDX's 5-speed automatic transmission. So this 2002 Ody has the nice 2001 Ody look (interior and exterior) but with MDX's strong body. Don't even mention leather seats and DVD entertainment system, and best of all, you're not paying the $38,000 MDX price.

    If you're looking for a vehicle puts the best of both world, 2002 Ody is the car you want to own.

    According to this review, , the 2001 MDX shares about 12 percent of the 2001 Odyssey's architecture. MDX was built on Ody's platform. Now after Ody borrowed MDX's engine and transmission, I bet both 2002 vehicles would share about 50% of each other.

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