When you've got a big family, a sedan or compact SUV simply won't cut it, but a minivan will do the trick.
These three-row people haulers have been around for decades but came into favour when the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan -- and later the Dodge Grand Caravan -- arrived in the 1980s. The minivan fell to the more stylish midsize crossover in the 2000s but has seen a resurgence in the 2020s.
While they are growing in popularity again, not all minivans are great buys. Below, we'll look at what makes a great minivan and the four best minivans in Canada.
Minivans faded for a while as crossovers and midsize SUVs rolled in and filled families' driveways. As of late, this segment has seen somewhat of a resurgence, fuelled by more advanced newcomers, such as the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna, which feature hybrid powertrains and advanced safety and entertainment tech.
Here's what to look for to find the best minivans in Canada.
You're planning to haul your entire family in this rig, so it's paramount that it's safe for everyone. Always check the IIHS safety ratings and settle for nothing less than a Top Safety Pick. Ideally, though, you can find a minivan that was a Top Safety Pick+, the IIHS' highest honour.
You also want to search for a minivan with the latest safety features. Sure, airbags and anti-lock brakes are great, but so many of today's cars have advanced features that keep you out of accidents. These include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, rearview cameras, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keep assist, and more.
The ability to haul the whole family is the key selling point for a minivan, so seating capacity and arrangement must be critical when making a buying decision. Yes, all minivans will include three seating rows, but they aren't all created equal.
In some minivans, the second-row seats are captain's chairs -- standard bucket seats like in the front -- instead of a bench seat. Second-row captain's chairs are comfortable and fine for a family of seven or less, but an eight-person family will find it lacks one seating position. This is where a second-row bench seat becomes desirable. Adding that third seat in the second row means everyone comes along for the ride.
You'll also want to check the third-row seat for roominess. Not all third rows have adequate legroom, and they're often too narrow to fit the three people they claim they can.
Safety tech is great for peace of mind, but it does nothing to curtail the "are we there yet" questioning. This is where entertainment technology becomes a key issue for minivans. Many of them have awesome features to keep the kiddos entertained, including personal screens, streaming and DVD-playing capabilities, video game console connectivity, household power supplies, and infotainment systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Loading up on a minivan with these features will help make long journeys a breeze.
One of the biggest downsides to minivans has been fuel economy. They're big and generally use large V6 engines for power, resulting in lacklustre ratings. However, new fuel-conserving tech, including hybridization, has recently made these large vehicles more fuel-efficient.
Hauling cargo isn't always overly important for minivan buyers, but some may prefer these larger vehicles purely for their cavernous cargo areas once you lower or remove the seats. These people will put the cargo room higher on their list.
These shoppers will also consider how easy it is to access the maximum cargo space. Some minivans have intuitive tumbling seats that fold into the floor with just a few steps. Others, however, require you to go through complex steps to unfasten the seats and lift them out of the van.
Looking for the best minivan in Canada? Here are some great options to consider for your next family vehicle.
The Chrysler Pacifica minivan arrived in 2017, though its name dates back to a crossover from the early-2000s. This is not only one of the most stylish minivans on the market, but it's also one of the more technologically advanced.
Inside, it has a standard 10.1-inch infotainment screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, and more. You may even be able to find upgraded models with a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and rear theatre system with two 10-inch touchscreens, HDMI inputs, a Blu-ray player, and other goodies.
The base Pacifica comes standard with a 287-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 engine and has optional all-wheel drive (AWD) for those slippery Canadian winter roads.
Shoppers seeking a minivan that also sips fuel will likely opt for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. This plug-in hybrid van delivers 260-hp from its V-6 engine, but also offers up to 51 kilometres of all-electric range. With the battery depleted, the Pacifica Hybrid delivers a fuel consumption rate of 8 L/10km combined.
The Pacifica is also quite roomy, whether you're hauling cargo or people. In the people-hauling department, it has room for seven passengers -- no eight-passenger option -- 990.6 mm of second-row legroom and 927.1 mm of third-row legroom. In the cargo area, the Pacifica hauls up to 3,978.5 litres with the seats neatly tumbled into the floor.
The Honda Odyssey has been a staple in the minivan segment for many years and has always been one of the best options. The 2021 Odyssey lacks the sharp looks of the Pacifica, but it matches it in so many other areas.
First, if you forgo the optional captain's chairs, the Odyssey has room for up to eight passengers. In the second row, passenger's get a whopping 1,038.8 mm of legroom, while third-row riders get an equally ample 967.7 mm of legroom.
Cargo room is also plentiful at up to 4,103.1 litres. However, hitting the maximum cargo room means removing the second-row seat, which is a bit of a challenge.
Features are lacking on the base LX model, as it comes standard with a 5-inch colour display (no touchscreen) and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. In the EX and higher trims, you'll find all the required niceties: an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and more.
On some models, you may also find a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a Blu-ray player and a 10.2-inch flip-down screen.
The Odyssey also comes standard with all the safety tech you'd expect. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and a rear-seat reminder.
The Odyssey lacks underhood tech, as a 280-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 powers it -- no hybrid or plug-in hybrid help. The Odyssey is also only available with front-wheel drive (FWD) and has no AWD option.
Toyota released an all-new Sienna minivan for the 2021 model year. With this redesign came an all-new look inside and out and an advanced hybrid powertrain with available AWD.
This powertrain comprises a 189-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and a 180-horsepower electric motor. Combined, these units deliver 245 horsepower, putting it slightly below the Pacifica Hybrid.
While it has no true electric range -- it can travel short distances at low speeds on electricity alone -- the Sienna does deliver in the fuel economy game. It delivers a consumption rate of just 6.5 L/100km.
Inside, the Sienna LE and XLE are available with eight-passenger layouts, but the higher trims are all for seven passengers. This cabin's standard features include loads of tech, such as a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite radio compatibility, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa connectivity.
The Sienna also has an optional rear-seat entertainment system that includes an 11.6-inch high-definition display, a Blu-ray player, and HDMI ports.
The Sienna has plenty of seating, including 1,013.5 mm of second-row leg room and 983 mm of third-row leg room. However, it falls short with just 2,860 litres of cargo room. This lack of cargo is mostly because the second-row seats aren't removable. Instead, the back folds flat, and you can slide items on top of it.
Safety tech is no sweat, with the Sienna's standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic high beams.
The Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona in 2022, but the Kia Sedona remains a solid option for pre-owned minivan buyers.
The Sedona lacks an advanced powertrain, as it comes with a 3.3-litre V-6 that delivers 276 horsepower. There are no hybrid or plug-in hybrid options for this Kia van.
The Sedona comes standard with some advanced tech, starting with its 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and USB ports. This cabin also has room for up to eight passengers and great second-row leg room at 1,043.9 mm. Third-row legroom suffers a bit at just 883.9 mm.
Some Sedona models include a rear-seat entertainment system that includes two high-definition touchscreens.
Cargo room is up with the top minivans at up to 1,189 litres with both rear rows flat. Like the Odyssey, though, the Sedona requires full seat removal to access this space.
The Sedona also falls short in safety tech, as it only has optional automatic emergency braking. Plus, it misses the mark in not being an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Ready to make a move and buy a minivan as your next family vehicle? At Clutch, we have some of the best minivans in Canada available in our pre-owned inventory.
Each of our high-quality pre-owned minivans has been through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process to ensure it's ready for the road. Plus, we each vehicle up with a 6,000-km warranty for good measure.
When you order your pre-owned minivan online with Clutch, you skip the hassle of going to the dealership and having to negotiate a good price. At Clutch, you always get a great price, no negotiation necessary. Plus, you get a 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don't love your new Clutch minivan during that period, you can return it for a refund or exchange it for another vehicle.
Trading up into a newer minivan with more features? Clutch can handle trade-ins too, and you can get your trade-in estimate online. If you're satisfied with our offer, we'll pick up your trade-in vehicle and apply the trade-in value to your purchase.