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 gaining 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, filling families' driveways. This segment has seen a resurgence, fuelled by more advanced newcomers like 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 passenger safety is paramount. Always check the IIHS safety ratings and settle for nothing less than a Top Safety Pick. Ideally, you can find a minivan with a Top Safety Pick+ rating, 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 many of today's cars have advanced features that may help keep you out of accidents. These include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, rearview cameras, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keep assist, and more.
Hauling the whole family is the key selling point for a minivan, so seating capacity and arrangement are critical in your 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 fewer, 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. Bring the whole family on your shopping trip and test-fit them in all three rows.
Safety tech is great for peace of mind but does nothing to curtail the "are we there yet" questioning. This is where entertainment technology becomes a key issue for minivans.
Many of today’s best minivans in Canada 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. Picking up 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. You have to remember that even the best minivan in Canada in terms of fuel economy will still consume a fair amount more than a thrifty sedan.
Hauling cargo isn't always overly important for minivan buyers, but some may prefer these larger vehicles purely for their large 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 the bulky assemblies 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 one of the most stylish minivans on the market and 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 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 has a 287-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 engine and an optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for those slippery Canadian winter roads.
Shoppers who look to save a little cash at the pump can opt for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. This plug-in hybrid minivan delivers 260 hp from its V-6 engine and electric motor and offers up to 51 kilometres of all-electric range. When running on electricity, it delivers a fuel consumption equivalent of 2.9 Le/100 km. With the battery depleted, the Pacifica Hybrid delivers a fuel consumption rate of 8 L/10km combined — 2.6 L/100 km better than the standard Pacifica.
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, which can immediately eliminate it for some families -- 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 Grand Caravan is a model exclusive to Canada and is essentially a Chrysler Pacifica with fewer niceties. The first notable difference of the Grand Caravan is it lacks optional all-wheel drive (AWD) and comes in front-wheel drive (FWD) only. You’ll also notice the painted instead of polished wheels, halogen lights instead of LEDs, a 7-inch touchscreen instead of a 10.1-inch screen, and it lacks the standard SafetyTec package the Pacifica has.
But it does include the same standard 3.6-litre V6 engine with 287 horsepower and a smooth nine-speed automatic transmission. On top of that, a new Grand Caravan starts at over $7,500 less than the base 2023 Pacifica. This makes it a great option for those who like the Pacifica’s style but have a tighter budget.
The Honda Odyssey has been a staple in the minivan segment for many years and has always been one of the best options. The 2023 Odyssey lacks the sharp looks of the Pacifica, but it matches it in so many other areas and still looks good inside and out.
Unlike the Pacifica, if you forgo the optional captain's chairs, the Odyssey has room for up to eight passengers, giving it a broader customer base. In the second row, passengers 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 3,973 to 3,984 litres. However, hitting the maximum cargo room means removing the second-row seat, which is a bit of a challenge.
The old, low-feature LX model is gone, making the better-equipped EX model the base. While this is great because it includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and more, it also drives the base price way up to $47,655.
On some models, you may also find a rear-seat entertainment system with 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. You can get the Sienna in FWD or AWD.
While it has no 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 stellar consumption rate of just 6.6 L/100 km combined with FWD and 6.7 L/100 km combined with AWD.
Inside, the Sienna LE and XLE have 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 with an 11.6-inch high-definition display, a Blu-ray player, and HDMI ports.
The Sienna has plenty of seating, including 1,015 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 Carnival replaced the Kia Sedona in 2022, giving the Korean automaker an up-to-date model in this resurging class. The neatest thing about the Carnival is how Kia carefully designed it with the harder body lines and more upright design of an SUV, helping it cater to a larger crowd. Plus, its $38,466 starting price makes it even more enticing.
Under its hood, the Kia Carnival features a 3.5-litre V6 engine with 290 horsepower that flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission and out to the front wheels. It’s not the most fuel-efficient of the bunch, but it certainly has plenty of punch.
Inside, the Carnival can seat up to eight people and has decent second-row legroom at 1,029 mm, but its third row is relatively tight at 903 mm. Although it lacks legroom, the Carnival makes up for it with 4,110 litres of max cargo capacity and 1,139 litres behind the third row.
The Carnival also comes well-equipped with its standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, drive mode select, rear occupant alert, lane-keep assist, lane-follow assist, automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, and more. In higher-trim models, you get a 12.3-inch touchscreen, smart cruise control, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and more.
Ready to 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.
Our high-quality pre-owned minivans have 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 negotiating a good price. At Clutch, you always get a great price and no negotiation is 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 also handle trade-ins, and you can get your offer 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.