We did it. We joined Minivan Nation last week. We researched, we drove, we bought. Here's what and why.
Former vehicle: our beloved 2001 Chevrolet Suburban. We purchased this vehicle when the boys were very small and I was expecting DD3. I emphatically didn't want a minivan because of the image and the room. I loved the acres of space in the back and the feeling of being the biggest guy on the road. This is the car we brought our girls home in, the one we took endless road trips and back-and-forths to the lake in. It was our living room on wheels. After 9 1/2 years it was a smelly dirty living room! And I had to face the grim reality--a Suburban, while huge, has a pretty small third seat. No one believes it until you try to sit back there. We really needed a car that seated six adult-size people. Enter the minivan.
We (mostly me) looked at all the offerings. Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan, Kia...I'm sure I looked at others but I've forgotten. The single most important criterion was that third row seat. The choices pretty quickly boiled down to the Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler, based on reliability reports and lots of different web reviews, like Edmunds.com. And then I eliminated Chrysler because of numerous reports of uncomfortable chairs--the seating configurations and bells and whistles on the Town and Country are awesome but the chairs weren't too good. Fine, one less to drive.
I hate to shop for cars. So the fewer cars we looked at, the better.
I was leaning towards the Toyota Sienna. Brand new for 2011, the sport model has a really cute commercial about the "swagger wagon." Not that I'm swayed by advertising. I've also owned a Toyota and found them as reliable as the day is long. We went to the dealership on a Friday evening to drive one. A loaded model just below the Sport was the best they had on the lot, so that's what we tried.
What was good about the Sienna: Two sunroofs! Loved that. It was spacious. The turning radius was teensy-tiny. The controls seemed easy to figure out. The seats were comfortable and easy to move around.
What was less good: The steering was smooshy, which I guess would be fixed in the Sport model. It seemed to have some nose dive on a short stop. But the thing that I really didn't like were the tracks in the floor which are covered by a rubber gasket-type thing. This is how the seats adjust so much, but it leaves open spaces on the floor. They looked like trash magnets to me. And there aren't mats to fit over them. I mean, I REALLY didn't get this. But maybe I could get over it, because it looks to me like lots of people do!
So, on to the Honda. The Odyssey also has a new 2011 model. The one we drove had just been delivered to the dealership that morning. It was a Touring model, fully loaded except for a couple of little bells, like the split screen video player.
What was good about the Odyssey: The look of it from the outside. It looked sleeker and sportier than earlier models. I like the "lightning bolt" side that allows for more visibility in the third row. And that third row--unquestionably bigger than any other vehicle I've been in. Plenty of room, and even an armrest the kids could flip down in the back. The controls, of course. Very easy. And the steering felt tight and sure, much less floppy than the Toyota.
What was less good: No second sunroof. Um, that's it.
Obviously, we got the Honda! And now I've driven it for a week, and...shhhhhh...I like it. The fuel efficiency is awesome. The kids can get in and out so easily, and it really has a ton of space for everyone. DD3 and I are spending the weekend in North Georgia, so we have gotten to take it on some of the twisty mountain roads, and it has been great. Not my husband's Porsche, but really good. And no crumb-catchers in the floor of the car!
So we'll have to wait and see for a real road trip with everyone, but I've migrated to the state of Honda in Minivan Nation and it's not a bad place to be. (RIP, Suburban. You were great.)