SUV vs Minivans

skimmelskimmel Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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?
  • gasguzzler007gasguzzler007 Member Posts: 70
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Guest Posts: 52,454
    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.

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  • yzfyzf Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 43
    Aggie76: What happened with the Sienna? Also, did you ever consider the Honda Odyssey? Or, or you settled on an SUV?
  • dardson1dardson1 Member 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 Member 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..
  • corsicachevycorsicachevy Member Posts: 316
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 43
    Congratulations from me as well. And thanks for sharing your experience. It helps others to hear your thought process.
  • stacystacy Member 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 Member 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.
  • corsicachevycorsicachevy Member Posts: 316
    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.
  • ody2002ody2002 Member Posts: 17
    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.

  • jona57jona57 Member Posts: 194
    While others have pointed out the people-moving utility of minivans, another advantage is that the enclosed cargo capabilities of vans are unrivaled for a given fuel consumption. For example, the larger mini's (e.g. Chryslers, GM's) have a cargo capacity roughly that of a Suburban (160+ cu. ft.). If you can tolerate mid-teens MPG highway mileage, a full size van can haul significantly more than any of the large SUV's (well over 200 cu. ft) and can be outfitted to carry a dozen people (or more in long wheelbase vans). The old Chevy Astro and the somewhat pricey VW Eurovan split the difference between the mini and full-size vans in size.
    The downsides of minivans are limited trailer towing capability (about 3500#) and limited off-road ability. Those 4WD systems on minivans do not make them into Hummers.

    Personally, my family has had a FWD minivan and a sport sedan as our 2 vehicles since the modern minivans first came out in the mid '80's. I have found that a nice mix as I can grab a set of keys appropriate to what I need (or want!) to do that day. I have never needed the off-road capability of an SUV, and have found the minivan's FWD with traction control to be quite adequate for most all Midwestern suburban winter driving. On those few days when I got my sedan stuck in deeper snow in my driveway, I was able to get the minivan out & moving with its higher ground clearance. The penalty in weight, complexity, and handling with 4WD systems in the minivans does not seem to be a worthwhile trade-off for my driving needs.
  • drew_drew_ Member Posts: 3,382
    Ah, but the AWD minivans are great for carrying 7 eager skiers to the ski slopes! :-)

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  • mom4kidsmom4kids Member Posts: 2
    I've been reading the posts saying nothing is a better people mover than a mini-van, but I'm many people and what else are you moving. I have 4 kids, 3 are in carseats. When I throw a stroller in the back of my Windstar, there's not much room left for the groceries! I caught a glimpse of the inside of a Suburban, and the SPACE looked like a dream come true to me. Can someone tell me why or why not to go there?? I had a Taurus Wagon ('90 - hubby still drives it) then went to the mini van with baby #3. With only 1 sliding door, getting everyone in and out is a pain. We've looked at other vans...but they seem smaller than mine! We do travel alot...45 miles to the grocery store, home to see Grandma every 6 weeks or so. I'd appreciate any input!
  • egrandegrand Member Posts: 14
    Having four kids myself I would urge you not to get too excited about the added storage space in a suburban vs minivan. The access to the third row I think is much more difficult in the suburban vs minivan particularly if you'll be the one trying to yank them out of their cars seats in the third row. You may want to consider Caravan/Town and Country or odyssey minivans which give more storage room. Elliot
  • gasguzzgasguzz Member Posts: 214
    the suv and minivan. We picked the van over a mid-size suv. Wouldn't have without the DS sliding, but I have half your load - 2 car seats plus stuff. If it's a consideration, you'll pay more for gas (and insurance???) on the Suburb. Higher ingress/egress too on the suv, but a bigger engine. Yes, traversing through front/mid rows a boon in bad weather fastening the lil ones in the minivan.
    Good luck.
  • ibarras2ibarras2 Member Posts: 4
    This problem goes into the "grass is always greener" category. We have 3 kids, all in car seats. We had a Dodge Durango, and got tired of pulling kids from 3rd row, dinging doors, etc. So, we looked for the biggest AWD Minivan we could find, which wound up being a 2002 Chevy Venture AWD WB edition. Seats 8, plenty of room to haul stuff (we are on the road nearly every weekend). The two power sliding doors are very convenient. The entertainment system keeps them busy on long trips. If AWD is not necessary (it is for us), I believe other vans will match for size...but the Chevy seating (pull out individual seats or fold down) is extremely convenient. When the kids get older I can see us moving back to a SUV, but for now the minivan is better.
  • cavillercaviller Member Posts: 331
    Obviously, there are exceptions. But when comparing a large wheelbase minivan like Odyssey or Grand Caravan to an SUV with similar cargo space like Expedition, consider:

    The minivan will get better mileage and less emissions. The minivan will have more seating flexibility, and easier access to rear rows. The Minivan will have larger sliding doors and a lower step-in height making loading and unloading easier. The minivan will have better handling and braking. According the the IIHS, Vans over 4000 lbs (Includes Odyssey, Windstar, Grand Caravan etc) are in the best group for lowest death rates ( ). The minivan will have lower tendency to rollover. Odyssey and Windstar also get top crash ratings across the board, something matched by very few SUVs of any size. The minivan will also be less hazardous to other vehicles in a crash, as the unibody design tends to crush to absorb energy instead of acting like a battering ram. Similarly equipped, minivans tend to be a bit less expensive, though this can vary depending on trim level.

    On the other hand, the SUV will be much better for towing. With 4WD, it will also be much better for serious off-roading and very severe weather. The also don't have the family "image" of a minivan. These are not small considerations, especially if you must do heavy towing or off-roading on a regular basis. In those cases, a minivan is probably not an option.

    Again, there are exceptions, I only state some generalizations for sake of debate. Which is right for you depends mostly on your specific needs.

  • geoduckgeoduck Member Posts: 52

    Prior to purchasing our 2001 AWD Chrysler T&C, we test drove large SUVs. We have two kids in car seats, but with their friends and the grandparents and all that, functional seating for 4 rear passengers was always a requirement.

    Though we enjoyed the Suburban, Sequoia, Tahoe etc. the choice for an AWD minivan was easy. Price and operating costs were factors, but so was ease of access and configurability of the interior for hauling all the kids' stuff.

    The minivans are far more flexible. We go to downtown Seattle regularly, and my wife found parking the Suburban to be a hassle. In addition, they don't always fit into newer parking garages.

    Re: storage, we easily fit our stroller and ten grocery bags behind the third seat. If you need more space, consider getting a roof box--they are wonderful and affordable.

    Another option that I have seen larger families go for is a full-size commercial-style van. They aren't sexy, but they are sure functional and not pricey.
  • scape2scape2 Member Posts: 4,123
    is an ego thing. I am a 35 year old male and would not be caught in a mini-van!!! Thats why a mini-Suv with my 200HP v6 suits me fine!
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    We have a discussion just for you :-)

    Where are the high performance minivans?

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  • dcf1dcf1 Member Posts: 10
    We have 4 kids, 3 in cars seats also. Our '99 Odyssey is great for around town and some trips but strollers, portacribs etc. required a hard cartop carrier. I would recommend the '02 with 4-wheel dick brakes, a new 5-speed trans, more horsepower (it was powerful before!) and driver/passenger side air bags. We live in a metro area and the smaller exterior (and roomy interior) is a major plus. Forget about the folding 3rd seat -- you'll never get a chance to use it while the kids are onboard!

    Two neighbors have Suburban and Excursion. The Excursion is just too big and needs an IV for gas (single digit gas mileage). The Suburban has great horizontal storage behind 3rd seat as opposed to Odyssey's vertical storage. In fact the Surburban seems "horizontal" compared to the Odyssey. Gas mileage is poor but this is a truck that can do truck stuff like towing and off-road rambling. However it costs at least $10k more than any minivan. We are always tempted by Suburbans, but will put off owning one until the children are older (say 6+ years of age).

    Odyessy is a well designed minivan but has had problems with transmission (check out Odyessy Problems forum)and power doors (very nice at protecting little hands and fingers). But it is a minivan. If you need a van then buy a 2002 and get extended warranty.

    Suburban is refined but it is still a truck. If you need a truck for hauling and tough winter weather then buy a Suburban.

    PS - There are other minivans and SUVs but none in my opinion are the complete package for a young family of 6 like the Odyssey and Suburban.
  • arbarnhartarbarnhart Member Posts: 23
    I wish Honda had not discontinued old Odys to make new ones. We have one of each body style bought in reverse order (bought a new 2000 and just recently got a used 96 with 4 captains chairs (seats 6 total)). We are a family of 6. I consider the old Ody more of a wagon than van, with a little bit of SUV thrown in. The Subaru Forrester is even more SUV leaning, but lacks the seating and "pedigree" (others may disagree). My old Ody is weak in the engine department, but it is FWD and fairly light, so it will slog slowly through not-too-heavy snow or mud better than many vans. If you need a lot of power and ground clearance, you wouldn't be considering a compromise anyway right? The newer Ody is a no compromise big honkin' minivan.
  • mom4kidsmom4kids Member Posts: 2
    OK - I admit to not "getting it" when we talk cargo space being equal in the big SUVs and the bigger mini-vans. Horizontal space is useful, while vertical doesn't do me much good. I can't really stack the groceries on top of each other. We do trips to BJ's/SAM's where I'm piling things on the kids just to get home (a 40 minute drive). We're going looking/test driving on Saturday...if I were going to drive 4 vehicles, what would y'all suggest. NJ requires car seats until 8years 2 of my 3 in seats can take care of themselves (4th child doesn't need a car seat/booster). I'm looking to move kids and stuff without having to completely unload the stroller, etc for every trip to the store. Also to be able to go to Grandma's without a cartop carrier, as I often make this trip without hubby,and needing a stepladder to load the car is right out. And I'm looking for safety - that's why I have a Windstar now. I'm looking for room to take Grandma or other visiting company along. I'm looking for Ford's have been great - 11 years with hardly a problem ever, but I'm not seeing a Ford with my name on it right now. Hubby has no time to help on this one...he'll buy it if I pick it. So...what would be my top 4 to test drive? I've driven big trucks before...not my first choice, but we aren't in the city, so I'm not trying to weave in and out of traffic or anything. Just need to move 6 people (minimum) and lots of stuff:everything from strollers(double) to groceries to bags of mulch and flowers for the yard...all with 4 kids in the car. I do love my frustration level is just getting higher and higher every time I can't get things in and have to make another trip. thanks for the input...I'm reading and researching like crazy now!

  • lenoblelenoble Member Posts: 5

    If you really need to carry six people AND a lot of stuff, and if you feel
    your Windstar is not nearly large enough, you will have to get a
    Suburban / Expedition / full size van. No minivan offers significantly more
    room than a Windstar. I recently bought a minivan (2 weeks ago) and
    I looked at them all. The Honda Oddy is the largest, the rear storage area
    begind the third seat is bigger than the Windstar, but not that much
    larger. You can easily fit two rows of paper grocery bags back there,
    probably about 10 bags total. If that's not enough for you, you will need
    the larger SUV.

    The disadvantage of the SUV is in access to the third seat. I don't think
    kids under 10 would really be able to do that alone. You have to flip
    the seat pan forwards, then tumble the seat back down. If you have a
    car seat there - forget about it. So if you have car seats in the third
    seat, then YOU have to crawl back there each time the kids gets in
    and out. With a minivan you open the door, and there is relatively easy
    access to the third row seat. I have three kids, 7, 4, and 7 months. The
    seven year old walks to the third row and belts herself in. The 4 year old
    sits behind the passenger seats. She gets in the seat herself but I need
    to do the buckle. I can reach the buckle without climbing in. The baby sits
    behind the driver and I can easily put him in the seat.

    I test drove a Tahoe and I loved it. The problem was that with yound
    kids the seating arrangement doesn't work.

    Good luck,
  • gasguzzler007gasguzzler007 Member Posts: 70
    I agree about the seats. If you have children that are very young you can either get a minivan or an SUV only with captain chairs. I dont see how a single mom can climb into the vehicle to buckle in their child in the 3rd seat. That would be a hassle. I dont have children yet and dont use the 3rd seat except when I take my dogs so I cant comment on the hassle.
  • tlaurotlauro Member Posts: 504
  • avro1avro1 Member Posts: 6
    Our 1993 Astro lasted just over 200k, our 1995 Windstar had just under 300k (no problems). Our 2000 Astro died with 78 000km (replaced the tranny and rad at different points, when the engine cracked decided to replace), the stop gap solution is a 220k Mazda MPV, the other current ride is a 98 Windstar with over 240k (again no problems) The only problem the 93 astro had was with its awd system. Now looking to demote the Mazda to G1/G2 duty (teen drivers), looking maybe at a Caravan, a wagon (audi?) or a cute ute, any ideas. This is primarily a vehile for 2 to 4, 6 in the family (2 teens, 2 adults, 2 kids). Any ideas? The Windstar will probably be replaced by the mrs with another windstar in a few months. She's sold on them, despite dire warnings about tranny problems, gasket problems, have had two with well over 200k (km)and no problems.
  • arbarnhartarbarnhart Member Posts: 23
    I think all minivans currently selling in the US have sliding rear door(s). That hasn't always been true, if you consider the old style Odyssey and the Mitsubishi Expo to be minivans (some consider them tall wagons). A coworker of mine considers his Lexus RX300 to be a minivan. I disagree, due to seating and profile.

    Is there a real definition somewhere?
  • 5greyhounds5greyhounds Member Posts: 338
    My wife and I do Greyhound Rescue with Greyhound Pets of America and we have both a van and SUV. We do many events that are held in open fields and many a time it would have just rained and we have to park our in a very large muddy lot and the SUV (Suzuki XL-7) is perfect. Two dogs and 4X4. what else can you ask for? Actually a van is what you can ask for. We will take tents and lots of things to sell to these events and the Windstar is just what the doctor ordered. The SUV gets about 21 and the Star gets 23 MPG. Not great but it beats 15 in an Explorer. However, I must sat I get tired of taking the office to lunch since the van holds 6 plus me. Last month I took both sets of seats out and put them in storage. No more taking people to lunch.
  • kingwkingw Member Posts: 6
    My husband and I have four kids and a large dog and like to camp and travel occasionally. He drives a small car with barely enough cargo space for his guitar...

    I love having a Suburban. It doubles as a pick up truck for us, carries 8 people, and a ton of cargo. We spent a week camping in Yosemite last Summer and were able to get everything in, or on, the Suburban, including five bicycles, one on top, four on a hitch mounted carrier. Last week my husband and I brought home a small freezer, a 32- inch television, and a couple of weeks worth of groceries without even removing the seats, although we did tumble the third seat forward.

    I am very glad we didn't buy the Odyssey we had put the deposit down on. It was nice, but we would have needed a cargo trailer to go on any vacations, and we don't have room to park a trailer where we live.

    I have to add... many of my friends with mini vans have husbands who drive trucks. That really makes a difference. A truck with a crew cab, or even just an extended cab, can take a family of five and a lot of stuff just about anywhere. That wasn't an option for us because of the family size ( none of the kids are big enough to sit up front even if the truck could seat six), and the fact that with my husband doing about 50% more driving than I do, it makes sense for him to drive an economical car.

    You have to make a decision based on your family's needs, not the recommendations of others with different needs.

    I'm not sure that getting car seats in and out of the third seat in any car is really a breeze. That is just something that has to be put up with for a few years. There are other more important (imho) factors to consider.
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