For lovers of space wagons, which will be your top pick?
With its accommodating interior, easy manners and stellar reliability record, the 2016 Toyota Sienna remains at the top of the class among minivans. Just off a freshening last year that granted updates inside and out, the Sienna continues to earn its status as an exemplary choice for growing families. The Sienna’s styling remains more conservative. but on the inside where it counts, Toyota’s minivan boast features pragmatic and entertaining – perfect for keeping kids safe and placated. The Sienna offers seating for seven or eight, and remains the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive (AWD), a boon when driving in foul weather. Add in terrific resale value, and the Sienna’s star shines all the brighter.
If you want a minivan with simple operation, stellar reliability and traditionally handsome design, the 2016 Sienna is a no-brainer. Class-leading resale value and the availability of factory-installed hardware for passengers with mobility needs are other merits, as is the option of traction-enhancing all-wheel drive.
… but the stiffer platform is part of the reason the latest Sienna is more satisfying to drive than past models. The familiar 266-horsepower V6 continues to deliver ample power, while the 6-speed automatic transmission deftly manages that output. Responsive enough around town and now quieter on the highway, the Sienna is about as satisfying to drive as an 8-passenger troop transport can be, and it’s even more rewarding for passengers. For those seeking a more dialed-in driving experience, the SE trim offers a sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels. Both features improve handling but also result in a harsher ride and more road noise inside the cabin.
The Nissan Quest has typically had a supporting role in the minivan market. The first two generations, in particular, were rather anonymous and subpar. The more recent third-generation Quest made a huge leap ahead in terms of styling and performance, though it, too, never really caught on with the public.
The newest and latest fourth-generation Nissan Quest, however, is the most competitive model yet. Its bold styling, interior refinement and smooth V6/continuously variable transmission (CVT) place it firmly in the discussion among the leaders of the pack: the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
Current Nissan Quest
The Nissan Quest minivan is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 making 260 horsepower, put to the ground through a CVT. There are four trim levels: S, SV, SL and LE.
The base S is sparsely equipped for a minivan, but still offers an auxiliary audio jack and a few other niceties. The SV adds a wealth of other items such as alloy wheels, power-sliding doors and high-tech items like Bluetooth and an iPod interface. The SL trim is more luxurious thanks to its leather upholstery and one-touch folding third-row seats, while the top-trim LE gains a navigation system and an advanced “Around View” parking camera, while offering an optional panoramic moonroof spanning nearly the length of the roof. The kids will be thankful that a DVD entertainment system is available on all but the base S.
Inside, the Quest’s controls are logically grouped on the center stack and easily navigable. Interior materials are the best you’ll find in a minivan, with the leather-appointed cabins in the range-topping trims feeling especially premium and luxurious. On the downside, the Quest’s standard second-row captain’s chairs eliminate the option for an eighth passenger. And although the Quest’s seats fold neatly into the floor, this design results in about 40 cubic feet less cargo capacity than other mainstream minivans.
Overall, though, the Quest is a legitimate, if commonly overlooked, choice for a minivan. Thanks to its compliant ride, composed handling and smooth power delivery, it should serve families quite well.
Used Nissan Quest Models
The current, fourth-generation Nissan Quest was introduced for 2011. There have been no significant changes since then.
The third-generation Nissan Quest was produced from 2004-’09 (there was no Quest for the 2010 model year). At its debut, it shook up the minivan world with its avant-garde body styling, unique cabin design and a marketing campaign that did its best to disassociate the van from its soccer mom image. The Quest’s pillar-style center stack was certainly distinctive, but the multitude of similar buttons made operating often-used functions a hassle. Thankfully, the busy center stack was replaced by a much more user-friendly layout in a 2007 refresh.
All Quests of this generation were powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 235 hp, and power was sent to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. Four trim levels were available — the base 3.5, 3.5 S, 3.5 SL and 3.5 SE — each with an increasing number of features and conveniences. Oddly enough, none of these trim levels included rear seats — forcing customers to pay extra for a seat package that included second-row captain’s chairs and a flat-folding rear bench.
This Quest had a few things in its favor, including a roomy interior and handling that was a cut above most other minivan competitors. However, downsides were numerous, including a third-row seat that wasn’t split, a relative lack of cargo capacity and limited availability of stability control. Overall, minivan shoppers would be better served by other top choices in this segment.
Family vehicles don’t get any more purpose-built than minivans. The 2016 Honda Odyssey isn’t only an example of a minivan done well, but it’s also an example of a family vehicle done well. It handles multiple combinations of passengers and cargo, kids and diaper bags—all while managing to be slightly fun to drive, and earning some of the highest ratings for safety around.
The current generation of the Odyssey definitely stands out a bit more, with its “lightning bolt” beltline design; a refresh a couple of years ago fine-tuned the visual appeal, with a more deeply sculpted hood, a bolder grille, darker-finish headlamp housings, and some front appearance tweaks that included chrome-trimmed fog lamps. In back, the LED taillight bars sharpen up the look, while inside a new center-stack design and fresh finishes keep the Odyssey up to speed in an automotive market that’s constantly upping cabin appointments.
With 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6, and a 6-speed automatic transmission, this front-wheel-drive minivan has enough on reserve for strong passing, even with a full load. Although you’ll never mistake the Odyssey for a sport sedan, the Odyssey definitely handles more like an Accord than a Pilot. The ride is a bit firm, but the Odyssey manages to combine ride comfort and handling prowess better than most family-haulers.
Inside—what matters most for a minivan, right?—the Odyssey is a surprisingly quiet and refined space. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts both quell any vibrations from fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, as well as excess road noise. Cubbies and bins abound, with the center compartment between the front seats designed to swallow large items like a purse or tablet.
The seating layout is highly configurable, of course. An available split second row allows for the two outboard seats to be moved toward the doors (Honda calls this wide mode) to make more space for adults sitting side-by-side. The second and third row can also move relative to each other to provide better access to the rear seats or more comfort for the second-row passengers. There are five official LATCH connections, and in all, compared to most other three-row vehicles, even, you get a lot more flexibility in where child safety seats can be placed.
The current generation of the Honda Odyssey has been a standout when it comes to safety. It’s been one of the few large vehicles to achieve top ratings from both U.S. safety agencies. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, and the Odyssey has all the safety-feature bases covered, with a standard rearview camera system on all models, and the top Touring Elite getting an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, a blind-spot warning system, forward-collision and lane-departure warning.
Features, and value for money, are areas where the Odyssey doesn’t quite add up to grand slam. The base Odyssey LX includes Bluetooth hands-free calling, Honda’s intelligent Multi-Information Display, and an 8.0-inch screen, in addition to a USB audio port and 2 GB of audio storage and a USB audio port; but many of the most desirable features remain the exclusive domain of the Touring and Touring Elite models.
The top Odyssey Touring Elite model gets many of the best features in the lineup, including the HondaLink infotainment suite, which allows owners to use a smartphone app to access Aha Internet-based entertainment, or hear Facebook and Twitter updates via text-to-speech. There’s also a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, the ultra-wide-screen system, theater surround sound, and HID headlamps, and a standout 16.2-inch wide-screen entertainment system, which can even split the screen in half to display two separate inputs (including HDMI).
Perhaps the Odyssey Touring Elite’s most enticing feature is the HondaVAC system—a powerful integrated vacuum cleaner located on the left side of the cargo compartment.
The Odyssey achieves fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined, which is among the best in its class and only slightly lower than the Nissan Quest’s 23 mpg combined rating.