There can be little doubt that vans and minivans represent the ultimate people movers, vehicles which by design can accommodate a large number of passengers in total comfort. Tall rooflines, wide bodies and easy access to three or more rows of seating are hallmarks of the van and minivan segment. These automobiles might not offer the most engaging driving experiences or most attractive sheet metal, but it is hard to find more practical or affordable high capacity passenger vehicles.
Let’s take a closer look at ten of the best seven-plus seat passenger vans and minivans currently available.
Photos courtesy of respective manufacturers
01. 2011 Nissan Quest
The 2011 Nissan Quest is a completely redesigned edition of the Japanese brand’s venerable minivan. The Nissan Quest has always marched to the beat of its own drummer, a fact that is reinforced by the swoopy styling of its exterior. The Quest offer two plus three plus two seating, for a total of seven positions split across three rows. Both the final row of accommodations and the reclining second row can be removed from the vehicle in order to free up 108 cubic feet of total cargo space.
The 2011 Nissan Quest is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that is good for 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Unlike most minivans, the Quest makes use of a continuously-variable automatic transmission, which helps it to attain fuel mileage of 18 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg highway.
02. 2011 Honda Odyssey
The 2011 Honda Odyssey takes minivan styling in a somewhat different direction than its Nissan competitor, aiming to provide a swept, aggressive look that maintains many of Honda’s standard visual cues. Also offering a redesign for the 2011 model year, the Honda Odyssey is larger inside than ever before. Eight passenger seating is provided, with a second row that is now wider and which features a sliding center section to help improve access to a center-mounted car seat. The rear seats drop down into the floor and the second row pops out of its anchors in order to provide 148 cubic feet of internal storage.
The 2011 Honda Odyssey is outfitted with a 248 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Also capable of generating 250 lb-ft of torque, the Odyssey’s motor can be yoked to either a five-speed or six-speed automatic transmission, depending upon which trim level is selected. The six-speed offers fuel economy that is one mpg higher for each respective measure than that provided by the five-speed, with a rating of 19 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.
03. 2011 Toyota Sienna
The 2011 Toyota Sienna wraps up the members of our list of minivans which have been completely re-engineered. Maintaining roughly the same size package as found in the previous generation of the van, the Toyota Sienna offers room inside for as many as eight people, with a second row that, like the Honda, features a sliding center section. There is also the option of second row captain’s chairs to increase comfort (in the seven-passenger edition). Folding the rear seats down into the floor and pulling the second row out of the van reveals 150 cubic feet of room for hauling oversized gear.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna provides two engine choices for prospective buyers. Entry-level editions of the van feature a four-cylinder unit that displaces 2.7-liters and which provides 187 horsepower 186 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for the van shows as 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. A more robust 3.5-liter V-6 is also available and it puts out 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque while reducing fuel mileage to 18 mpg in stop and go driving and 24 mpg during highway cruising. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard for either engine, and all-wheel drive can be ordered as an option with the V-6.
04. 2011 Chrysler Town & Country
The 2011 Chrysler Town & Country has been given a fresh lease on life thanks to a number of tweaks and changes that have been made to the vehicle in order to improve its looks, the quality of its interior design and its engine choices. The Chrysler Town & Country can handle up to seven passengers and it offers the “Stow ‘n Go” seating, allowing all positions behind the driver to fold flat into the floor. This opens up 143.8 cubic feet of total storage. “Swivel ‘n Go” seats are no longer available on the premium minivan.
Unlike the 2010 model, the 2011 Chrysler Town & Country offers a single engine option: an all-new 3.6-liter V-6 that grinds out 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. This makes it the most powerful minivan on the market (along with its Dodge Grand Caravan twin). The vehicle makes use of a six-speed automatic transmission and offers fuel mileage of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
05. 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan is the platform mate of the Chrysler minivan, and as a result it features many of the same improvements as its sister vehicle. The Dodge Grand Caravan has also seen its exterior design poked and prodded by the brand’s stylists, and it has gained a fresh drivetrain. Not as luxury oriented as the Town & Country, the Grand Caravan does maintain “Stow ‘n Go” fold-flat seating for seven (with a power option for making the rear row disappear) in order to make available just over 140 cubic feet of total cargo space.
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan also sees the introduction of a new 283 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine making the same 260 lb-ft of torque as it does in the Town & Country. This means that the Grand Caravan shares with its Chrysler stable mate the title of the most powerful vehicle in its class. Fuel mileage for the minivan shows as 17 mpg around town and 25 mpg on the highway, aided and abetted by special economy programming found in its six-speed automatic transmission.
06. 2011 Volkswagen Routan
The 2011 Volkswagen Routan is in many ways linked to the Dodge and Chrysler minivan offerings. The rebranded Volkswagen Routan borrows its platform from the Pentastar pair as well as its engine (a 283 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 that also offers 260 lb-ft of torque), its fuel mileage rating (17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway) and its transmission (a six-speed automatic).
In terms of looks and features, however, the 2011 Volkswagen Routan stands apart. The minivan’s styling is a dead ringer for the other members of the VW family, and on the inside all seven passengers are capable of enjoying a fairly high level of luxury if the upscale SEL and SEL Premium trim levels are selected. Another notable difference is the absence of “Swivel ‘n Go” seating – a feature which did not make it across the Atlantic for the German market – although the van does match the Chrysler and Dodge options in terms of total interior storage space (144.4 cubic feet in total).
07. 2011 Kia Sedona
The 2011 Kia Sedona is a minivan which is focused on maximizing value for budget-conscious shoppers. The Kia Sedona’s affordable price includes all of the features that modern minivan shoppers are looking for, such as a fold-flat rear row of accommodations and total seating for seven passengers. With those rows out of the picture, the Sedona provides 142 cubic feet of total cargo space.
The 2011 Kia Sedona gains a new drivetrain compared to the 2010 edition, with a fresh 3.5-liter V-6 engine stuffed under the hood. Capable of generating 271 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, this motor is good for fuel mileage of 18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox for the Sedona.
08. 2011 Ford E-Series
The 2011 Ford E-Series is the first of the full-size vans on our list, a large multi-passenger vehicle that can be ordered in a number of different configurations. Depending upon whether a stretched or regular wheelbase edition of the van is ordered, the Ford E-Series comes with between three and five rows of seating, allowing it to handle as many as 15 passengers. Its cavernous interior can also swallow up to 275 cubic feet of cargo depending on the vehicle’s configuration.
The 2011 Ford E-Series offers three power engine choices: a 4.6-liter V-8 (225 horsepower, 286 lb-ft of torque), a 5.4-liter V-8 (255 horsepower, 350 lb-ft of torque) and a 6.8-liter V-10 (305 horsepower, 420 lb-ft of torque). Both V-8’s are matched with a four-speed automatic, while the V-10 sees a five-speed auto instead. The van also features a stout maximum towing capacity of 10,000 lbs. Fuel mileage information for the E-Series is as high as 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway for the small V-8, and as low as 9 mpg city and 10 mpg for the V-10 edition. The mid-range V-8 falls somewhere in between.
09. 2011 Chevrolet Express
The 2011 Chevrolet Express full-size van offers two wheelbase lengths, enabling it to seat between eight and 15 passengers if necessary, as well as haul up to 252.9 cubic feet of cargo. The Chevrolet Express also adds the additional wrinkle of available all-wheel drive, helping to give it extra traction in the wet or snow.
The 2011 Chevrolet Express offers a 5.3-liter V-8 engine as its standard powertrain, and this unit generates 310 horsepower and 334 lb-ft of torque while returning fuel mileage of 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. A four-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties for this motor. The Express can also be had with a 4.8-liter V-8 (280 horses, 295 lb-ft of torque) and a 6.0-liter V-8 (323 horses, 373 lb-ft of torque), matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. A turbodiesel V-8 option, displacing 6.6-liters and offering up 260 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque is additionally available, and it, too, is offered exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Chevrolet Express tow rating tops out at 9,900 lbs.
10. 2011 GMC Savana
The 2011 GMC Savana shares its chassis and its engine choices with the Chevrolet Express. This means that it can be had in the same 15-pasenger, extended wheelbase editions and haul the same 252.9 cubic feet of cargo.
The 2011 GMC Savana also features available all-wheel drive as well as each of the three V-8 engine choices found on the Express (310 horsepower 5.3-liter, 280 horsepower 4.8-liter, 324 horsepower 6.0-liter), backed by the same four and six-speed automatic transmissions. The 5.3-liter unit returns fuel economy of 13 mpg in city driving and 17 mpg on the highway according to the EPA. The Savana additionally borrows the Express’ 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8 engine, which is capable of offering 260 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, the GMC Savana can tow up to 9,900 lbs.