2009 Lemon Aid Minivans

MINIVANS 



Chrysler Town & Country

Honda Odyssey

Nissan Quest
Dodge Grand Caravan Kia Sedona

Toyota Sienna

   

 


From an equipment, versatility and comfort standpoint, minivans offer better value than similarly-equipped mid-size sedans and SUVs. Despite the value proposition minivans represent, the segment, whether because of fashion or demographics, is losing momentum. The Minivan section of Lemon Aid 2004 mentioned 24 different nameplates compared to the five nameplates covered this year. GM left the minivan market very early in the model year when it stopped making the Uplander and Montana SV6, and Hyundai withdrew the 2009 Entourage before it was even released.  

The safety record of minivans is generally very good, a function of their height, large size and usually cautious drivers. With the exception of bumper strength on some models, minivans meet almost all passenger car safety standards. Crash test ratings should be compared before buying, as test results vary widely. Bulky vans with deep-tinted glass can be challenging to park, especially at night. Proximity parking sensors are optional on most vans now, and several makers offer backup cameras as well.  

A cheap lease used to be one the key drawing cards Chrysler used to get consumers into one of its minivans. The credit crunch forced Chrysler to withdraw from leasing, and Chrysler is now tempting buyers with big rebates for cash buyers, and really long finance terms with low monthly payments. The long finance terms have a dark side, and APA President George Iny’s article “New car advertising: open season on consumers” (on the home page at APA.ca) outlines some of the pitfalls.
 


 

 

 

 

Dodge Grand Caravan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
CHRYSLER Town & Country, DODGE Grand Caravan (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 3.3L-V6* 175 HP, 4L-V6 251 HP
Transmission: 4A*, 6A
City fuel economy: 12.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Town & Country: 4L engine standard. Grand Caravan: 25th Anniversary replaces SE Stow 'N GO. Both: 3.8L engine discontinued.

Performance
The 4L V6 in the Town and Country accelerates strongly and mates well with a six-speed automatic transmission that upshifts unobtrusively under light load, but shifts crisply, keeping the engine in a defined power band, under eager acceleration. While lacking the silken smoothness of the V6s that power the Honda Odyssey or the Kia Sedona, Chrysler’s 4L engine sounds enthusiastic while working hard and is quiet at highway speeds. The Town and Country rides well, except over short, sharp, bumps, which the rear beam axle doesn’t cope well with. Handling, aided by nicely weighted and geared steering, is confident and wieldy for such a big bus. Good directional stability. Small turning circle. The brakes stop the van well, but aren’t the last word in precision. Clear instrumentation and generally logical controls. However, when equipped with a DVD player and a navigation system, there are a lot of buttons to get used to. The dash-mounted transmission selector is a bit of a reach and feels gritty as it moves through its gate. Large, comfortable front seats and comfortable second row (Swivel ‘N Go) seats. If the Swivel ‘N Go seats are rotated to face the rear, the result is a tangle of legs. There is a deep cargo well when the third seat is arrayed to accept passengers. Fit and finish are quite good now. Bright L.E.D. lighting illuminates a cabin that has copious storage bins for a family on the move. The Grand Caravan driven briefly by the APA retained most of the virtues exhibited by the premium Town & Country model. The audio, DVD player and navigation systems work well, except for the tendency of the Navigation voice to lose its setting and become too quiet to hear. Seat heaters warm up swiftly.

Reliability
New model, not rated. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain. The front bumpers are vulnerable to damage in minor impacts. Purchase of an extended bumper to bumper warranty is recommended, particularly if you opt for a luxury model with lots of power accessories. APA members may be eligible for a discount, check with the Association.

Comments
Stow ‘N Go third-row seating is standard on all models. A middle row bench is standard on the base van, with Stow ‘N Go seating fitted to other trim versions. The Swivel N’Go seats are optional on fancier models. The ancient 3.3L V6, hooked to the old-tech four-speed automatic transmission, is standard on the base van, with the 4L-V6/six-speed automatic powertrain optional on the Grand Caravan and standard on the Town & Country. Chrysler built the Routan, a Volkswagen-badged version of Grand Caravan for the 2009 model year, but production has been suspended. Made in Canada and the United States.

Pricing
The Stow “N Go and 25th Anniversary options are good value. The optional 4L-V6 and six-speed automatic transmission combination is priced at $1600. Complex and frequently changing incentives, as well as the opaque nature of Chrysler’s consumer website, make securing an exact price on these vans very difficult. The APA can provide trustworthy pricing and payment data on Chrysler’s vans.

Safety
Standard side-curtain airbags on all models. The Grand Caravan/Town & Country was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and side impact tests, and Marginal in the IIHS rear impact test. Ranked 3rd of the 5 vehicles in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

Honda Odyssey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HONDA Odyssey (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.5L-V6* 244 HP (DX, LX, EX), 241 HP (EX-L, Touring).
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 13.3L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
A power tailgate is now standard on the EX-L and Touring models.

Performance
The Odyssey’s powertrain delivers a polished performance combining speed and serenity with an infectious metallic bark as the engine heads for the redline. The complex cylinder shut-off system works well but some drivers find the cylinder shuffling annoying. The splendid powertrain is nestled in a chassis that melds communicative, perfectly-weighted steering, predictable, slop-free handling, and an absorbent ride that is disturbed only by large transverse ridges. Wind noise is subdued and road noise is better suppressed than in most Hondas. The Odyssey has large, comfortable seats, and occupants in all three rows have plenty of space. Large bumps excite more squeaks and rattles from the Odyssey’s structure than expected. The backup camera is cleverly integrated into the rearview mirror on the EX-L model.

Reliability
Above average reliability is predicted. A Honda extended warranty is recommended if your van has the power sliding doors. Three-year bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The Odyssey’s third-row seats fold neatly into the floor, but the second-row seats can’t be folded into the floor or tumbled forward. The Odyssey’s interior is fronted by an attractive dashboard that contains large crisp instrumentation, logical controls, space for a navigation system, and a handy dash-mounted transmission selector. The beautifully-grained matte-finish plastics look superb, but are just unpadded hard plastic, disappointing at this price. Good exterior paint and panel fit. Honda offers DX, LX, EX, EX-L and Touring trim levels. The EX-L and Touring models have the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system, as well as Active Control (engine) Mounts (ACM). These three features work together to improve the fuel economy of this big, powerful van. The VCM turns the V6 into a V4 or an inline three to save fuel under light loads. The ACM, controlled by the electronic control module (ECM), actually adjusts the engine mounts to counteract engine vibrations when running in three-cylinder or V4 modes. In addition, an Active Noise Control (ANC) device sonically suppresses the booming sound characteristics of the engine while in three-cylinder mode by playing “white noise” through the van’s audio system. Properly equipped, maximum towing capacity is 1588 kg (3500 lbs.). Made in the United States.

Pricing
Compared with the DX, the LX lacks content for the extra money requested. The EX upgrade is excellent value. The EX-L and Touring trim levels are priced to reflect the value of their additional contents. The Odyssey EX is priced about $2500 more than a Sienna LE, and will cost about $140 more per month to lease (48 months $0. down) and $30 more to finance (60 months, $0. down) than the Toyota. With such a small spread between lease and finance payments, 2009 is the year to finance your Odyssey rather than lease it. Good resale value.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain. The Odyssey was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked 2nd of the 5 vehicles in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

Kia Sedona 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
HYUNDAI
KIA Sedona (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.8L-V6 250 HP (Kia
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 13.2L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
Sedona: Unchanged. Entourage: Discontinued.

Comments
Like all new Kias, the Sedona is spun off a Hyundai product, in this case, the new large-vehicle platform also underpinning the Sonata, Azera, Santa Fe and Veracruz. The van is conventionally attractive, with clean lines and good paint and panel fit. The vans are powered by a higher torque version of the 3.8L twin cam V6 that powers the Hyundai Azera. It sends power to the front wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission with a manumatic self-shifting function. The V6 is smooth, eager, and delivers a cultured bark at high revs. The five-speed automatic works unobtrusively, and while the manumatic mode works well, it seems an odd feature for a family bus. An absorbent ride combines with predictable handling and good directional stability. Nicely weighted and geared steering, with a good turning circle. Interior design and fit and finish match the best in this segment. Comfortable seats and plenty of space in all three rows. The sophisticated rear climate control can direct air to the face, feet or both. Properly equipped, the maximum towing capacity is 1588 kg (3500 lbs.). Made in South Korea.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Five year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Pricing
The LX Convenience package balances price and content exactly. The EX and EX Power packages are overpriced, with the EX Limited upgrade slightly too expensive for its additional content. A Sedona LX Convenience and Sienna CE-7 have similar MSRPs and equipment. Monthly lease payments (48 months $0.down) are about the same for the two vans, but monthly finance (60 months $0. down) payments for the Kia are much less than they are for the Toyota. With Sedona lease (48 months) and finance (60 months) payments about the same, buying a Sedona makes more sense than leasing one this year.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The Sedona was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked first of the 5 vehicles in their class. Standard ABS. ESC is standard on all versions except for the Sedona LX.  


 

 

Nissan Quest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
NISSAN Quest (FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.5L 235 HP
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 12.9L/100 km
ESC: Available
Emissions rating: ULEV

What’s new
SL leather package discontinued. New colour.

Comments
The Quest enters its sixth year unchanged. The Quest’s XXL exterior furnishes a cavernous cabin, but one geared more toward the first and second row occupants than most rivals. Third-row legroom is disappointing in a van this big, the seat itself is too small for adult comfort, and a stepped floor between the second and third row complicates access. The third row seat folds into the floor. The Quest’s engine sends power to the front wheels via an automatic transmission with five speeds. The Quest’s powerful V6 provides immediate, enthusiastic acceleration and relaxed cruising. Ride and handling are good, but can’t match the Toyota Sienna’s sense of splendid isolation, or the Honda Odyssey’s well-honed balance of absorbent ride and sense of control. The Quest’s steering is nicely geared and weighted. Heating takes a long time before producing meaningful warmth. Nissan provides an override switch that allows the power-sliding doors to operate manually. Launched with great promise, this stylish van has been a sales dud. Properly equipped, the maximum towing capacity is 1588 kg (3500 lbs.). Made in the United States

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient information due to poor sales. The powertrain has been reliable in other Nissan vehicles. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Well equipped base 3.5S model. The 3.5S Convenience package is very good value. The 3.5 SL upgrade is priced to cover its additional content. The 3.5 SE model is a about $2500 overpriced. Rapid depreciation. A four year old Quest is worth about $4000 less than a similarly equipped Sienna.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted and side airbags. Rated Good in IIHS frontal and side impact tests and Poor in the IIHS rear impact test. Ranked last of the 5 vehicles tested in its class. Standard ABS. ESC is standard on the SE but is not offered on other models.  


 

 

 

 

Toyota Sienna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
TOYOTA Sienna (FWD*, AWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engine: 3.3L-V6 266 HP
Transmission: 5A
City fuel economy: 11.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5

What’s new
Nothing of note.

Performance
The Sienna’s 3.5L V6 is strong and flexible. Handling is predictable and secure, and while light, the steering is precise. The ride is generally absorbent, but big bumps can disturb the van’s composure, especially at the rear. Seating is comfortable but the seats are a bit soft for some people. Very good second row room and comfort, and the third row is habitable, if a bit hard to get to. The Sienna has some slick touches, including rear climate controls that can direct air to the head, feet, or both.

Reliability
Above average. The previous Sienna was reliable. Complaints have been received about short-lived, expensive-to-replace run-flat tires on all-wheel drive Siennas. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The Sienna continues to offer all-wheel drive across the model range, the only van to do so. The permanent all-wheel drive system, offered on all seven-seater Siennas, is derived from the Lexus RX350 that shares the Sienna’s platform. Seven passenger seating is standard, but eight passenger variants of the CE and LE are available. The second-row three-seater bench boosts versatility, letting you carry five people and lots of luggage. The Sienna’s middle row seats fold and tumble out of the way, and the 60/40 split third row seat folds flat into the floor when you don’t need it. All-wheel drive models roll on run flat tires, which wear quickly (25,000 km or so) and are expensive to replace. Winter tires for all-wheel drive versions of this van could cost up to $270 each. Sales dropped about 25 percent in 2008. Properly equipped, maximum towing capacity is 1587 kg (3500 lbs.). Made in the United States.

Pricing

The eight-seater packages and the LE Leather package are the only good value upgrades on the Sienna lineup this year. The price gap between the LE AWD and the AWD Limited is about twice the value of the Limited’s extra content. The Sienna LE is priced roughly $2500 less than a Honda Odyssey EX and generates a $140 cheaper monthly (48 month $0. down) lease payment than the Honda. If financing, the monthly payment (60 months $0. down) on the Toyota is about $30 less than it is for the Honda.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted front airbags and side-curtains airbags on all models. The Sienna is rated Good in the IIHS frontal and side impact tests and Poor in the IIHS rear impact test. Ranked 4th of the 5 vehicles in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.