Babble Best Picks:
2011 Minivans for the Family
Want to know the difference between all the minivans on the market? Babble asked me take each of them out for a spin to figure out which were best for which families. Most minivans got a thorough refresh this year, and many received better interior materials, more power, and higher fuel economy. After cargo capacity, safety is typically a minivan shopper's main concern. These large family haulers tend to do well on crash safety tests, and we included the results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's independent crash test results. To find out what others thought, we added the Consumer Reports score and their Customer Satisfaction rating when available as well.
We hope you find this information helpful in your search for a family crossover. Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here! - Liane Yvkoff
Best Minivan for active families | 2011 Toyota Sienna
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/26
The 2011 Toyota Sienna is the only minivan available with AWD. So if your family is serious about winter sports or happens to live in a hilly winter climate, you’ll want to add the Sienna to your short list.
The 8-seater offers parents a range of powertrain options, including an economical 2.7L four-cylinder that gets 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the city. But if you want the Sienna for its AWD, you’ll need to spring for the 266-hp, 3.5L V6, which drops the fuel economy down to 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Despite its eight-seat capacity, the Sienna disappoints a little on latch placements for car seats or booster seats. The van is equipped with only two latch positions in the second row, and only one in the middle seat in the third row. While the middle seat is probably where parents would end up sticking a booster, it makes it hard for other passengers to access the outboard seats.
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.