If you’re looking for a vehicle that provides ample passenger and cargo space, a van might meet your needs – and provide comfort and utility that’s difficult to match.
Types of Vans
While the boxy shape of most vans make them easily identifiable, van interiors can be configured for comfortable passenger duties or as work vehicles with cavernous interiors. Whether you’re considering a minivan or a full-size passenger van, some manufacturers offer stripped-down versions designed for hauling cargo rather than people. Examples include the Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van and the Ford E-Series.
Interior and Cargo Space
SUVs make a great case for themselves as attractive vehicles that can haul your family and their gear. But at the end of the day, even the most cavernous of SUVs will have a hard time standing up to the passenger space and cargo capacity available on the average minivan. While most minivans seat seven people – a number not uncommon in SUVs with third-row seating -- even the iconic Chevrolet Suburban can’t match the cargo capacity of most mini and passenger vans.
While the Suburban boasts 137.4 cubic feet of cargo space, the Kia Sedona bests it with 141.5 – and the Kia costs less, has better fuel economy and is easier to maneuver.
However, if even more space is required, it’s tough to beat the passenger and cargo capacities available in full size vans like the Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series. Both the E-Series and the Express are available in different lengths, allowing consumers to opt for seating configurations that allow between seven and 15 passengers – a maximum that nearly doubles the seating available in most full size SUVs. Cargo space is also ample in full-size vans. The Chevrolet Express 1500, for example, has 216.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.
Minivans and passenger vans are geared toward comfort and convenience rather than performance. As such, many integrate convenience features and options such as rear-seat entertainment systems, power sliding doors and liftgates, and seating that can be arranged in multiple configurations. Consumers looking for a hint of luxury need not worry that today’s vans are purely utilitarian, as options such as heated seats, navigation and iPod connectivity are widely available on the market.
Shoppers should also pay special attention to second- and third-row seats, which are often removable, swivel or fold flat into the floor. The Dodge Grand Caravan, for example, is available with power third-row seating that can be folded into four different positions at the touch of a button.
Engine, Drivetrain and Fuel Economy
Minivans are generally available with a six-cylinder engine, although some, like the Toyota Sienna, still come with a base four-cylinder engine and a V6 option. Full-size passenger vans like the Ford E-Series and the Chevrolet Express feature V8 power as standard to help manage their added weight and less-aerodynamic profiles. While acceleration and handling of vans will never match that of sports cars, most offer adequate performance for highway merging duties.
Most minivans are front-wheel drive while passenger vans generally put power to the rear wheels. If you live in an area that’s subject to inclement weather, you may want to consider vans such as the Toyota Sienna or Chevrolet Express, which are available with all-wheel drive options.