Minivans aren’t the same boring people movers your parents used for the soccer carpool. Auto manufacturers are working overtime to bring style to the staid market, and they’re packing them full of the latest technology inside and out. They’re hoping to appeal to a younger generation of savvy car buyers — with big families and gear in tow — who often reluctantly need to go big to go home.
The minivan market is a little smaller this year, but choosing the right vehicle is still a difficult decision. To help readers figure out the differences between each model, Babble asked me to compare all the minivans on the market. In addition to taking them for a spin, I examined the seating options and cargo capacity, and looked for family friendly technology options. For a more comprehensive review of each vehicle, we also cross-checked with Consumer Reports to find the Customer Satisfaction rating from current owners. — Liane Yvkoff
Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here
5 / 6
Top minivan for active families | 2013 Toyota Sienna
MSRP: $26,450 – $41,240
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/26 mpg
The Toyota Sienna used to be one of two minivans you could get with a wallet-friendly 4-cylinder engine, but the new 2013 model is now available only with a 6-cylinder engine. The single powertrain option puts the Sienna in line with the other minivans on the market, and forcing buyers to take the vehicle with the bigger, 266-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine could make drivers happier with the vehicle’s performance — except when it comes to fuel economy. The 8-seater, with the now-standard 6-cylinder engine, will net drivers about 16 mpg for city driving and 23 mpg on the highway, which means that improved performance can come at a price at the gas pump. However, it’s still the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.
The base Sienna model is pretty spare and almost manual everything except for maybe power windows. To get automatic sliding doors, you’ll need to step one level up to the LE model, which also adds three-zone climate control system — a new addition for the 2013 model year. On the 2013 Sienna Limited and XLE, the Blind Spot Monitor as been added as a standard feature. The safety alerts the driver to vehicles in his or her blind spot during lane changes. However, if you don’t want to upgrade to the more expensive model, this feature is also available as an option on the SE model.
SEATING + STORAGE
There is no shortage of storage in the Sienna. The dash, center console, and second-row middle seat all contain hidden storage areas to stow things out of the way and keep you organized. (Just remember that a million little compartments to hold things mean a million little compartments to keep clean.) The plastic-lined compartment on the floor between the center stack and the center console is ingenious because it’ll keep purses clean and prevent them from sliding around in the vehicle.
Seating also sets the Sienna apart from the competition. In the 8-seat configuration, the middle seat in the second row folds to reveal a tray table and cup holder, and it also is removable and can be stowed away in rear cargo area. This feature is great if you want the option for an occasional eighth passenger but would prefer easier access to the third row most of the time. Also worth mentioning are the leg rests on the second-row seats, which are good for kids whose feet can’t yet touch the ground.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The audio system in the 2013 Toyota Sienna base model is pretty basic, but it offers satellite radio capability and has an auxiliary input outlet but no USB port. SE trims and above have more robust audio systems that include Bluetooth hands-free calling, a USB port for iPod integration, and Bluetooth audio to stream mobile internet music apps to the entertainment system.
The 2013 Toyota Sienna will also be available with the new Entune in-vehicle infotainment system. Entune leverages the driver’s Bluetooth- or USB-connected smartphone to bring popular applications onto the vehicle’s touch-screen display, such as Pandora, OpenTable and iHeartRadio. The new interface and entertainment apps should make carpooling and road trips a little more fun for the family. At the very least, the new option is intuitive for occupants who are starting to rely on their smartphones for pretty much everything, and won’t have to switch gears to figure out cryptic menus and buttons on an in-dash audio system.
IIHS top safety pick.
Consumer Reports gives the 2013 Toyota Sienna a score of 79 out of 100, and 74 percent of owners would purchase the vehicle again.