Minivans are, by and large, great vehicles. They are practical beyond belief, which is good, since they’re built for that specific purpose. They are often roomy, comfortable, loaded with all kinds of nifty features, and can carry a wide array of passengers and cargo.
However, this utility more often than not comes at the expense of driving dynamics. Minivans are not really sexy, and from behind the wheel, they are often quite bland — numb steering, adequate throttle response (but nothing to write home about), and handling that is about as uninspired as it gets. Nonetheless, they are popular in their own right among suburban families that prioritize space and versatility above all else.
Edmunds.com, though, set out to find what else is out there that makes a worthy substitute for such an example of grace and utility. But instead of talking to its panel of knowledgable professionals, it turned to its readers to find out what vehicle they would choose in lieu of a minivan. Here are the results.
12. Kia Sorento
The new Kia Sorento is among the top recommendations from Edmunds for consumers shopping for a small or midsize crossover SUV “thanks to its well-mannered driving characteristics, roomy interior and generous standard and optional features,” the publication said. It also offers more features per dollar than virtually anything else in its class, but only 1.6 percent of Edmunds’ readers would chose the Kia as an alternative to the buffet of minivan options.
11. Chevrolet Traverse
Armed with three rows and plenty of cabin seating, the Chevrolet Traverse will accomplish any task that one may need a minivan for. However, only 2.5 percent of Edmunds readers would choose the Chevy as a worthy alternative for a minivan.
10. Hyundai Santa Fe
Interestingly, the Hyundai Santa Fe outperformed its sister, the Kia Sorento. This could perhaps be due to is sharp and attractive looks, considering they are largely the same cars underneath the skin. Like the Kia, though, the Hyundai offers plenty of features for not a lot of money, and does everything — power, space, amenities — quite well. While the Kia had 1.6 percent of readers’ votes, the Santa Fe garnered 3.5 percent.
9. Nissan Pathfinder
The Nissan (NSANY.PK) Pathfinder is one of the few models listed — if not the only — that offers a hybrid powertrain as an option, which can get an impressive 25 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. Its redesign ensures that it looks fresh among the new competition, and inside, it’s well-appointed and offers plenty of room and comforts for seven passengers. Some 3.9 percent of voters felt that the Pathfinder would be the best replacement for a minivan.
8. Buick Enclave
The Buick Enclave is quite similar to the Traverse, but in a radically different suit. “The 2014 Buick Enclave is a great middle-ground option for families who want a large crossover with a high-end ambience, but aren’t ready to pay the premium asking price for a three-row SUV from one of the import luxury brands,” Edmunds says. As such, 4.7 percent of readers would chose to go the Buick route over the Chevrolet.
7. GMC Acadia
With the swirl of toxic recall headlines, it’s easy to forget that General Motors’ GMC Acadia is still a pretty good vehicle, and it is arguably one of the best-looking SUVs under GM’s umbrella. “The three-row 2014 GMC Acadia offers an effective combination of comfort, features and cargo space,” Edmunds said, and with the Denali trim available, it’ll feel like you’re riding in a Cadillac. The GMC is favored over its corporate siblings, as 5.4 percent of the voting body opted for the vehicle.
6. Mazda CX-9
Mazda’s (MAZDY.PK) CX-9 is not only the largest car in the manufacturer’s stable, but it also may be one of the best-looking SUVs on the road. Lines that are usually loud, brash, and aggressive on an SUV are smooth and graceful on the CX-9, which has a softer, more gentle demeanor; that’s not what you want when you’re talking Ferraris, but in this case, it works out just fine. Six point three percent of the voters agreed, saying they would choose the CX-9 over the usual minivan options.
5. Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer has been a leader in its segment since its birth, and the latest generation lives up to that legacy. “It’s not as versatile or roomy as some other large crossover SUVs, but the 2014 Ford Explorer is still a respectable pick in this class thanks to its high-end cabin and long list of advanced features,” Edmunds write. With 8.6 percent of the vote, it just barely trails the contender that ran off with fourth place.
4. Dodge Durango
While many minivans are seen as rather emasculating, the Dodge (FIATY.PK) is the complete opposite: it’s tough-looking, rugged, masculine, and has virtually the opposite aura of your usual family car. It’s also well-appointed inside and smooth and silky when driving, in addition to being greatly accommodating. The Durango won over 8.7 percent of Edmunds voters.
3. Honda Pilot
Its relatively small footprint for its class disguises the fact that the Honda Pilot can carry eight passengers in total comfort. No one thing stands out in particular with the Pilot, but it accomplishes everything well overall, making it a true multitool for every families’ needs. About 9 percent of the responding readers would opt for the Honda instead of the traditional minivan, though it’s worth mentioning that Honda makes one of the best minivans on the market.
2. Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander has been popular for many years now, and for good reason. It’s a vehicle that does everything well: ample cargo space, decent fuel economy, attractive looks that aren’t ostentatious, and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and longevity. Its predecessors were best sellers, and the new generation is shaping up to be as popular; 16.6 percent of Edmunds’ respondents said the Highlander makes the best alternative to a minivan.
1. Ford Flex
The Ford Flex is a vehicle unlike virtually everything else in Ford’s lineup. Though its boxy shape might seem polarizing for many, it’s actually become quite a popular car, and it belies the enormous amount of space available inside. It’s got three rows and ample cargo room, but on the road, it doesn’t seem any more imposing than a large station wagon. Nearly a third — 29.2 percent — of Edmunds readers decided that it would be the best bet as a replacement for a minivan.