Skip to main content

There isn’t much discussion about the humble minivan these days. Over the last couple of decades, the once-ubiquitous icon of the American family vehicle all but vanished from the roads, replaced by midsize SUVs and a wave of related sports utility remixes in their wake. But in 2023, what’s old is new again—minivans are quietly returning to prominence.

This isn’t the end of the road for the SUV just yet. The massive popularity of the family-friendly versions, the biggest SUVs on the market, might be sweating a little, though. Here are three previously massively popular SUV models that the most popular minivan, the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica, is handily outpacing in year-to-date sales.

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is great for families, but not as appealing as a minivan in 2023

Something is brewing with minivans, exemplified by the rapidly growing sales of the Pacifica in 2023. Chrysler’s long-running Pacifica emerged as a luxury minivan in the late 1990s, right when the SUV began its long reign as the top family vehicle in America. Chrysler’s patience has been rewarded as of late, according to GoodCarBadCar, with year-over-year second-quarter sales up by 12,837 units sold.

The year-to-date sales of 73,845 put the Pacifica ahead of some once-dominant, family-friendly SUVs—like the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder. The Japanese automaker’s midsize three-row option is notable for being one of the roomiest models that still aims for affordability over pure luxury.

The 2023 Pathfinder is big enough for the most demanding family vacation, while providing a light steering experience that targets commuters. This is exactly the sort of vehicle that once swept minivans off the roads, but at 42,774 YTD sales, it’s not much of a challenger for the Pacifica.

The 2023 Chevrolet Traverse is incredibly spacious yet trails behind a minivan

The ailing Pathfinder isn’t alone in finding itself struggling to catch up to a minivan in 2023. The 2023 Chevrolet Traverse may be the best version of Chevy’s affordable midsize SUV entry yet, according to Car and Driver. While it is by no means the model to go for if luxurious interiors are a must, it does provide a fantastic starting trim experience.

The 3.6-liter V-6 can easily zoom along with its three rows filled with family, friends, and a shocking amount of their belongings. This is an SUV that does everything pretty well—the king of being average, as it were. But these days, that’s only good enough for 68,681 YTD sales, putting Chevy slightly behind Chrysler’s scrappy minivan.

The 2023 Volkswagen Atlas is great for kids but perhaps not good enough for most

Volkswagen has their own affordable midsize SUV designed with families in mind. The 2023 Atlas might be the sharpest-looking of the category, too. And unlike many competitors, its third row is roomy enough for adults.

MotorTrend reports that the German automaker even refreshed the line with all-wheel drive capability. That takes it a step above some of the more commuter-oriented models in this category, that often sacrifice some of the SUV qualities. The Atlas offers something that minivans aren’t intended to provide in the first place.

But that makes it a bit less fun to drive day-to-day. Chunky steering and mediocre fuel economy (21 MPG city, 23 MPG highway) make this a bit much for some urban and suburban new car buyers. That likely explains why the Atlas, for all its charms, has only moved a sluggish 25,423 units to date.

The Pacifica may be responsible for a sizable chunk of those sales, as more new car buyers are ready to meet their old friend again: the minivan.


Why the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Is the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of Minivans