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Minivans - Domestic or Foreign



  • petakapetaka Posts: 12
    Problems with my ten year old Quest have me going over this tread but it seems that somehow the domestic folks have put themselves out of business.
    Take my Quest/Villager (built by Ford and Nissan). It has a decent size and power and it is extremely comfortable. So why couldn't Ford keep building something similar? Both Ford and Nissan replaced it with their own tuna boats and the Ford version was so unappealing that it has been discontinued. Kia, Chrysler, Mazda and Toyota used to have smaller vans but the alluring thing was to build tuna boats.
    I would like to help the domestics but so far the only one that comes close to my old Quest is the Sienna.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I waited for the 2007 model Sienna, because I REALLY wanted that 3.5l chain-driven V6. Lots more power, no more fuel, no belt to change.

    Like I said, if I had seen $8 grand savings I'd be driving a Korean van now.

    NHTSA and IIHS have not tested a 2007+ Sienna, and I think they should because it's a totally different engine block from the 2004-2006 3.3l V6, plus there were changes to the firewall and to the front door pillars.

    Even so, you can watch videos here: eo.htm

    Sienna earned a Good score from IIHS in frontal offset and in the side impact tests, and that's the best score possible.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    FWIW, when I was minivan shopping the latest Dodge van was not out yet. The old one didn't even have 2nd row windows that open, and my kids really wanted that.

    I have seen the new one since and I don't feel like I missed out on anything. Features are clever but execution could be a lot better. Maybe Fiat will get it right.
  • lavrishevolavrishevo Posts: 312
    I have really spent all my life in the U.S. and purchased 4 cars from various parts of the country. I became the dealers archenemy... hehe I was ruthless when it came to negotiating a deal.

    In the states the price difference would be closer to 4 - 6 thousand as you mentioned but here in PR it is a different story, especially factoring the excise tax. Can you imagine paying 31 - 32 grand minimum for a Ody? what a joke! Life in the Caribbean... But then again PR makes Florida look like the beaches in Jersey...

    I also test drover the older version Dodge, hated it. I had a 08 Caravan for a rental, hated it as well and it had nothing to do with it being a rental. It just felt so blah to drive, sight lines are terrible, engine noise, uncomfortable seats, poorly designed interior, and ugly to boot. I am so, so happy I did not wait for the new Dodge back at the end of 06. Again, this is just my personal experience and I am sure there are people who will swear by the new Caravan but I was not impressed in the least. As I wrote in a post while back, while my van was having the bumper painted and replaced in the body shop I was driving the caravan and could not wait to get the Sedona back. Not to mention the Dodge only had I think a little over 8,000 miles on it.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No, I can't imagine paying more than $30 grand for a vehicle my family needs, but I really don't "want". A van is something you have to buy, and then when you do, you like it. To spend more than $30 grand I'd hope to feel passionate about it, so no thanks.

    I drove my van down to Florida in January, and my brother rented a Dodge van. I drove it from the hotel to a store around the corner, so it was a quick hop, but I wasn't really impressed, the interior materials were awful. To be fair the rental ones are usually mid-level models without anything fancy, but then again so is my Sienna.

    My van was also much quicker and I was getting much better mileage than my brother got on the same drives, though he has one more kid and may have had a bit more weight in his van.
  • yatesjoyatesjo Posts: 186
    edited October 2010
    I'm surprised there have been no comments on this forum about the head-to-head comparison between the new for 2011 Ody and Sienna. -2011-toyota-sienna-xle-comparison-test.html

    In an utterly predictable result, the editors gave the nod to the Odyssey because of driving quality and puzzlingly, given the large as-tested price difference, value. I say predictable because Honda still emphasizes the driver experience over the passengers and auto reviewers rarely take time to ride as a passenger. I would be curious about the reviewers' take on a Sienna SE vs a similarly equipped Odyssey.

    I think, though, that they maybe right in picking the Honda. If I were in the market for a new van (I'm not. I'm quite happy with our 2008 Sienna, so I hope never shop this generation of vans) I would probably swing over to the Honda. First and foremost is the dreadful step down in quality and content I saw in the new Sienna- dash materials I would go out of my way to not touch, loss of true 8-passenger with a dreadfully uncomfortable substitution, loss of storage areas, poor interior fit and finish, etc. The second is it looks like Honda has improved areas I found weak- the 8th passenger seat looks a little more comfortable (where Toyota took a huge leap backward to worse than previous generation Ody), more LATCH positions (again Toyota took a step backward here), controls look better sorted, reportedly better noise damping and more space inside. The Toyota still has the better engine, but Honda has put enough effort into cutting weight that performance differences have been negated and fuel economy improved. My only complaint is the Ody still appears to be short on ground clearance, probably due to Honda's focus on the driver experience.

    All in all, Honda moved the ball forward, Toyota sort of let it roll backwards.
  • jpfjpf Posts: 496
    I own a 2006 Dodge Caravan SE. This is the most basic van; 4 cylinder engine and hand crank windows. Besides regular maintenance (oil changes, tune up, new tires, and just replaced the original battery), the only repair has been a belt tensioner in 63k miles. Front brake pads have been done once and original rotors are still on the vehicle. Rear brakes are original. I can get up to 32 mpg on the highway. Paid just under $16,000 (taxes incl.) for it when it was new. I have no complaints with Dodge.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's a great value.

    They dropped that model and replaced it with the Dodge Journey. That's not getting the Pentastar V6, too, so it's gone upscale, but don't expect to find one for $16k any more.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'll pre-empt this by saying that for me the 8 seats were a priority, and today's Odyssey offers a bigger/better 8th seat (middle row, center), so that would likely be my choice.


    That write-up is severely flawed.

    First, if they drove an Ody priced like their Sienna, it would have come with a lesser 5 speed transmission, hurting both acceleration and fuel economy.

    Then they missed many, many things the Sienna offers, like the Harmon Kardon stereo upgrade and auto-off headlights (heck, my 07 LE has those). In the features they also overlooked the Sienna's AWD option, a big one, plus the power folding 3rd row seats, and the laser cruise control.

    Those are big ticket items - having an AWD option and power 3rd row folding seats is far more important than 45 extra watts (650 vs. 605 - who cares?) on the stereo or a power passenger seat (and to be honest I wonder if they got that part wrong, too).

    Edmunds needs to re-write that article, it's very flawed.

    Let's see them compare a similarly priced Ody EX to a Sienna SE, which is the model Toyota designed to compete with Honda. You and I agree there.

    That plus hire a fact-checker.

    All in all, Honda moved the ball forward, Toyota sort of let it roll backwards.

    That I agree with.

    Tough call, though, because unless you spend more then $40 grand you'll get a lesser powertrain in the Honda.

    To be totally honest? I might even shop for a CPO 2010 Sienna if I were in the market today. I really want a comfortable 8th seat, and even Honda's new one, while far better than Toyota's new one, is no match for the excellent adult-sized seat in the 2004-2010 Sienna.
  • pmcb48pmcb48 Posts: 192
    edited October 2010
    After reading many reports on people's impressions of the 2011 Sienna and Odyssey, some strongly liking one or the other, I am left with the impression that "to each his own" is the best philosophy.

    My wife and I both recently tested and compared the 2011 Sienna Limited vs the Oddysey Touring, and I agree with the impression that the Odyssey is more set up as a driver's car, with slightly firmer steering. However, we thought the Odyssey's interior was perceptibly less spacious and the front seats were firmer, narrower, and more uncomfortable. They would bother me on a long trip. My wife also very much liked the Sienna's reclining 2nd row seats with the footrest, and the way the center console slid backwards to make cupholders more accessible to 2nd row passengers.

    We also liked the Sienna's styling (never have liked the Odyssey's open rear door channels). So we have a clear preference for the 2011 Sienna, and ordered one last night. For those who like the Odyssey instead, whatever fills your van, :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm not sure why Honda hasn't found a way to hide those large door seams - everyone else has.

    I prefer the styling on the Toyota as well, by a wide margin, but for me that would be a very low priority.
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    Because it would cut down on shoulder room by 4 inches, according to Honda.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I will let you guess which of these has more shoulder room in the 2nd and 3rd rows....the one that hides the sliding door tracks -> Sienna.

    Lame excuse by Honda engineers. "Sorry about the ugly design, it's so that we could offer less room!"

  • pmcb48pmcb48 Posts: 192
    I don't think styling should ever be a "very low priority." I may need to buy a tank, but given everything else being hopefully relatively equal, I'm going to pick the better-looking tank. :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I don't ignore it totally, but these things are more important to me:

    * interior comfort
    * quietness
    * ride
    * powertrain performance
    * fuel economy
    * cargo space
    * number of cup holders

    Just kidding on that last one. Sort of. :D
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    Just conveying their message. :)

    I don't have time to look it up at the moment, but I'd like to see how wide the rear tracks are, the overall width of the vans, and the interior hip/shoulder room measures.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Didn't mean to shoot the messenger. I meant to shoot the Honda engineer who said that. LOL


    Sienna: 78.1"
    Odyssey: 79.2"

    So with more than inch of extra girth to work with, it's still more narrow inside, and they still could not sort out how to hide the seat tracks.

    Epic fail.
  • yatesjoyatesjo Posts: 186
    I agree. A highly flawed review.

    It was overly focused on things that are important to car reviewers rather than minivan buyers. We have to read between the lines and study the pictures to find what is relevant to us as minivan users. Most reviews go on and on about about handling (thus my foregone conclusion about picking the Honda), but what most buyers are most interested in are "does it go?" and "does it stop?" (in both acceleration and braking the Toyota actually has the advantage.) and not so much in how fast they can round the curve (the passengers complain about being tossed about).

    In addition to ignoring the SE option on the Sienna, they compare top of the range vs upper middle range. A common problem with these reviews is most people buying vans don't buy the top model, they buy the middle range. As you pointed out that the Honda performance and economy is highly related to the transmission only available to this trim level.

    A minivan review needs to be more about how comfortable is the passenger space (seats in all positions, noise), safety equipment (brakes, airbags, LATCH positions), how well sorted out the controls (especially entertainment system), availability of storage space... Honda seems to have improved a number of those areas, but they were far from the focus of the author.

    We agree again about getting a 2010 or earlier Sienna as possibly being the better option. In the last week I suggested that to a friend at work who wants a new 8 passenger vehicle for long family trips.
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    I wouldn't go so far as to say the review itself is flawed, so much as it reviews the aspects of the vehicle that a smaller portion of minivan shoppers is going to be concerned with. People want to know more about how the interior features work than at what g-force the tires break loose on a skidpad.

    That said, however, I know more than one person who use the minivan (an Odyssey and a Sedona owner) as their only vehicle, that must serve several purposes. In that situation, how "fun-to-drive" it is, while a moot point to many, especially in a minivan, suddenly becomes more important, although not priority.

    Perhaps a way to sum this up is to say that Edmunds reviewed what drivers want, not what they and their passengers need.

    On the subject of matching trim levels for comparisons, I agree it should've been made crystal clear that Toyota offers a sporty model to counter the Odyssey. That they couldn't find an Odyssey EX-L to test (or a Sienna Limited or whatever the top-level is now) is likely the manufacturers' fault, not the writer(s)'.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Several good points made....

    I would like to see road noise levels compared, did they publish that?

    And Honda is plastering 28 MPG everywhere but that's only $40k plus, meaning nearly everyone won't get models that are rated that high.

    They used to reserve VCM for the EX-L and above, now they reserve the 6EAT for the Touring and above, so you have to spend even more to get the best mileage. The richest people are the ones who need that the least! It should be the other way around.

    The bulk of people will spend low/mid $30s, and that's what Edmunds should have tested. EX vs. SE, or even LX vs. LE.
  • yatesjoyatesjo Posts: 186
    edited October 2010
    "I would like to see road noise levels compared, did they publish that? "

    Yes they did. The numbers are close, but except at idle, the advantage still goes to Toyota:
    2011 Odessey 2011 Sienna
    Sound level @ idle (dB) 37.4 41.1
    @ Full throttle (dB) 71.8 71.6
    @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 68.8 66
  • pmcb48pmcb48 Posts: 192
    I would agree generally with your list of higher priorities. For us the most immediate one was interior roominess; my wife immediately remarked on the Odyssey's feeling more "cramped" than the 2011 Sienna, and I also felt the Odyssey's seats were less comfortable. Subjective impressions to be sure, but for us they started the balance tipping to the Sienna.
    Another post remarked that the green-friendly variable cylinder use option should be on the cheaper models, if not all of them. Sienna also has two important safety options (HID headlights and Dynamic Vehicle Management using the radar cruise option to prepare for an imminent collision) which are available only as options on the top Sienna model; the latter is not even available in the entire Central Atlantic region, where I am.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Thanks for looking that up.

    The important one is this one:

    70 mph cruise (dB) 68.8 66

    For me at least. I want to cover the miles quietly and peacefully. The kids can watch a movie, the wife naps, and I have my GPS and stereo. Life is good.
  • Thanks for that noise info, really interesting. From the Edmunds review of the new Odyssey
    "On the inside, the 2011 Honda Odyssey is as quiet as a premium luxury sedan. Road and wind noise are nearly silent, as is the drivetrain."

    Edmunds really seems to go out of their way to praise Honda, but the numbers speak the truth... I never considered the previous Odysseys when we were looking for minivans because of the road noise - at 70 on the highway, you couldn't really have a conversation with the kids in the back.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The last Accord I rented was also very loud, the one thing that really stood out to me. Honda may use less insulation to reduce weight, but you really notice at highway speeds.
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    The Crosstour has been praised as much quieter than Accord. Perhaps Honda has taken the Toyotization to a new level and has increased sound insulation in its latest models?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    It's heavier, too, isn't it? Though it also includes AWD.
  • sebring95sebring95 Posts: 3,238
    The other thing to watch is the road surface when comparing. Our '05 Ody is relatively quiet on asphault but get on a concrete highway and you'll want to jump out. We changed from the OEM Michelins to a Cooper CS4 and that helped some but it still gets very loud on concrete roads. Crossing a bridge will wake you right up. We have a stretch of concrete highway here that if I'm going that direction sometimes I'll take another's THAT annoying.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    For sure, tires are a huge factor. In fact the Dunlops on my Sienna are much noisier now vs. when they were new, so I may replaced them even though they have some tread left in them.
  • What does a luxury car consist of: quietness, comfort, power- we work hard and want to travel in luxury. I dont care about carlike this, car like that. Handling is a mixed bag if it is confident. We both had luxury sedans and suvs before the Sienna so we know what a relaxing, but confident ride is. Sure the Odyssey may turn quicker like a car, but try a short jaunt from sf to sj down the 101 and suffer the terrible ride. Luxury is traveling in total comfort but in superior control and that is what the Sienna offers. The ride and handling are even better than Lexus' RX 350- quieter, too. If you want a noisy ride, go sit in any pedestrian Honda, I did for 16 years so I know. Since having the kids we needed a better utility vehicle and the Sienna doesnt disappoint. In the end, it's just a minivan, but why not it be cool, quiet, comfortable and sporty?
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