Best Minivans of 2011

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2011

The best minivans of 2011 prove there’s life left in these family haulers. Fans know there’s simply no more efficient way to transport an active brood, and today’s best minivans combine innovations in infotainment and comfort with surprising driving pleasure and, yes, a modicum of sporty style. Sales are steady – if well below their early-2000s zenith – and fresh new designs abound. There’s even a burgeoning subcategory of mini-minivans. Check out our Best Minivans of 2011.

1.Honda Odyssey: Always the best-driving minivan, Odyssey defends its standing with an all-new design for model-year 2011. It’s bigger inside than the 2005-2010 generation, more fuel-efficient, and has a rakish new body marked by a “zig-zag” rear-window line. The 2011 Odyssey again accommodates up to eight passengers and offers LATCH attachment points for five child seats – the most in any light-duty vehicle. Entertainment attractions include Honda’s Ultrawide rear entertainment system with a 16.2-inch video display that projects a single widescreen image or two 8.1-inch images from separate onboard sources. The sole engine is a 248-horsepower V-6 with Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology that saves gas by automatically switching to three or four cylinders in low-demand situations. Fuel economy is a class-leading 19/28 mpg city/highway – as long as you spring for the top-line Touring models; less-expensive 2011 Odyssey models rate 18/27 mpg. Any 2011 Odyssey holds the road with uncommon poise and is trimmed in high-quality materials. The zig-zag rear-window line is for more than show: it enlarges the side glass to give third-row passengers a real sense of airiness. Base-price range: $28,580-$44,030. (All base prices in this article include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee.)

2.Toyota Sienna: All-new for model-year 2011, as well, this eight-seater gets shapely new sheetmetal, a larger cabin, and more safety features. Sienna also boasts some class exclusives in powertrain and seating. It’s the only minivan to offer a four-cylinder engine, a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter that shaves a few bucks off the purchase price without sentencing you to the slow lane, though we suspect most buyers will be happier still with the 266-horsepower V-6. Sienna also is the only minivan to offer the any-weather traction enhancement of all-wheel drive (AWD) as an alternative to traditional front-wheel drive. And no rival matches its available Lounge Seating – reclining second-row buckets that provide La-Z-Boy comfort.  Not to be outdone in the video-monitor wars, Sienna is available with a 16.4-inch widescreen rear entertainment system that accepts signals from two different sources. The 2011 Sienna’s exterior dimensions are unchanged from the 2004-2010 generation but the cabin feels more spacious and ride and handling are more composed, though this Toyota still doesn’t quite feel as athletic as the 2011 Odyssey. Fuel-economy ratings just lag the Honda rival, as well, coming in at 19/26 mpg with the four-cylinder engine, 18/24 for front-wheel-drive V-6 versions, and 16/22 for AWD V-6 models. Base-price range: $25,450-$40,780.

3.Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan: Chrysler isn’t fielding fully redesigned versions of its near-twin minivans for model-year 2011 but it has heavily revamped them. Both have revised styling, an updated interior, and the most-powerful engine in the class. Identical beneath the skin, these vans are pitched to slightly different audiences – Town & Country aims upscale and features more standard equipment, Grand Caravan is priced and positioned to appeal to families and even to sportier-minded drivers. The 2011 versions retain the basic boxy look these minivans have used since their last full redesign in model-year 2008. That benefits interior roominess, and though they seat only seven and feel a smidge less spacious than the Odyssey and Sienna, they do come with the exclusive convenience of Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go seating. This system allows the second-row buckets to tumble into wells beneath the floor so you don’t have to remove them or live with double-folded obstructions to maximize cargo room, as on the Toyota and Honda. And with the seats in their upright position, the floor wells act as handy covered storage space. Killed for model-year 2011 is the Swivel ’n Go system in which the second-row seats rotated to face the third row with a table in between. Both the 2011 Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan graduate to Chrysler’s “Pentastar” V-6, a 3.6-liter that replaces three different V-6s, none of which matched the new engine’s 283 horsepower. With their new powertrain, some thoughtful suspension retuning, welcome upgrades in cabin décor, and a competitive suite of infotainment gear, the 2011 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan are attractive minivan values. They’re also likely to be available with deeper and more frequent factory discounts than their flashier new rivals. Fuel-economy ratings are 17/25 for both. Base-price range: Town & Country, $30,995-$39,495; Grand Caravan, $24,995-$31,430.