Minivan VS crossover SUV

Comparing Minivans with Seven-Passenger Crossovers/SUVs - Consumer

At the same time as we were conducting our Ultimate Minivan Challenge with our friends from PBS' "MotorWeek, " we brought along a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse and asked our judges (and our test family), which is best? During the Challenge, they compared the Traverse to the minivan competitors, and here's how they fared:

No. 1: 2015 Kia Sedona, 740 points
No. 2: 2015 Toyota Sienna, 736 points
No. 3: Honda Odyssey, 664 points
No. 4: Chevrolet Traverse, 582 points
No. 5: Dodge Grand Caravan, 561 points
No. 6: Chrysler Town & Country, 553 points

Clearly, the judges and family did not find the Traverse to be better than more than half of the minivans in our Challenge. Of course, the family-car shoppers of this country disagree: While minivan sales totaled more than 500, 000 units in 2014, crossover sales numbered in the 800, 000s during that same year. But are shoppers making the right choice or following the herd blindly?

Team Three-Row Crossover

We asked our judges for the advantages that crossovers have over minivans. Among them:

Looks: "Crossovers have an advantage over minivans when it comes to looks, " editor Jennifer Newman said. "It's not a box on wheels and it doesn't scream mom- or dad-mobile." All the judges echoed her opinion.

Handling: "Many three-row SUVs ride and handle better, " editor Jennifer Geiger said, and given minivans' heft and bulbous design, crossovers are often sleeker and more nimble.

Capabilities: "With all-wheel drive, crossovers go where minivans can't, " editor Kelsey Mays said. "And even the lone minivan that has all-wheel drive - the Toyota Sienna - has a modest 6.6 inches of ground clearance. That's less than a Ford Escape." And "MotorWeek" producer Brian Robinson noted that many more three-row crossovers can tow, and they can tow more weight.

Variety: There are lots of three-row crossover options; there are only six minivans in the class, so there's more variety, Robinson said.

Team Minivan

And what are the advantages of minivans over crossovers?

Sliding doors: They may be the cliched symbol of minivans, but they work well. Want to keep your kids from causing damage at parking lots across the country? Want to stop them from dinging your own doors on cars, walls, light poles and more? Use sliding doors. And with virtually all of them powered now, you don't have to watch your 4-year-old take a dozen attempts at building up enough steam to close them anymore, several judges said.

Family-Friendliness: "From third rows with plentiful legroom, ample cargo areas and plenty of cubbies for storing snacks and more, minivans have crossovers beat, " Newman said. "Minivans have the most family-friendly features: conversation mirrors, window shades, you name it, " Mays said.

Room built for passengers: "Most minivans have better knee and footwell space, plus higher seating positions and comfier third rows, " Mays said. "In terms of cabin room, even the largest crossovers feel less efficiently packaged."

Room built for stuff: "From seats that fold into the floor to center consoles that can fit a purse, minivans are storage kings, " Mays said.

Easy access to all rows for kids: Minivans are built with kids in mind, and they allow for movement of both kids and parents between all three rows in a way that crossovers just don't, Geiger noted.

The Verdict

So how did our judges vote?

Jennifer Geiger, "My practical, if un-fun, choice is the minivan. The only way my family of five can take a road trip is in a minivan. A three-row SUV might cut it for carpools and daytrips, but a minivan can haul all my passengers and gear much more comfortably."

Kelsey Mays, "Utility and space trump styling for me; I'd take a minivan any day."

Jennifer Newman, "Minivans may not be a parent's first choice, but after driving them and seeing how well they handle all the daily tasks of family life - carpool, hauling kids' gear and more - it's easy to see why they win over three-row crossovers."

Brian Robinson, "MotorWeek": "For me, a minivan is a better choice for the majority of family duties (hauling kids, taking vacations, making the occasional Home Depot run); the only reason for choosing a three-row crossover is if you have a trailer to tow or need ground clearance for off-road use."

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