Most Midsize Three-Row SUV Shoppers Actually Want a Minivan
A three-row, midsize SUV has practically become the de facto choice for average families. The appeal is understandable. The segment offers seating for six to eight, typically a good helping of cargo room, and most models offer plenty of tech, safety and comfort features parents and kids desire. And if one model doesn’t fit the bill, well, there’s a flood of options at other dealerships. Midsize models aren’t as cumbersome, thirsty or expensive as the full-sized fray, to boot. As such, the school drop-off line and parking lots of local rec centers are a sea of midsize three-row SUVs. Family haulers doing family hauling. But for that purpose, the owners of these SUVs are practically announcing they’re fine with second best. For familes, no midsize three-row SUV holds a candle to a modern minivan. In the minivan vs. SUV fight, the minivan is the undisputed champ.
The Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival and Honda Odyssey have all the positive characteristics of a midsize SUV, but in all important arenas, these minivans are far superior for families. They are more spacious, more convenient for everyday use, and have family features no SUV can offer. For instance, the Pacifica is available with the “Fam Cam.” The in-cabin camera system allows you to view a video feed to check and see if your wee one in his rear-facing car seat has finally fallen asleep for a desperately needed nap. Several offer rear seat entertainment systems with dropdown or seatback-mounted screens to keep the kids entertained on long trips. Sure, some SUVs offer this, but only in luxury land. There’s in-car vacuums, in-cabin speaker systems for telling the kids to stop fighting in the backseat or the Carnival’s VIP Seats with pop-up footrests.
Of course, there are also practical reasons. For instance, the Chevy Traverse has an impressive 23 cubic feet of storage space behind its rear seats. That’s class leading. It’s also 10 cubic feet less than what you get in a Pacifica and 16 fewer cubes than the Sienna. And minivans don’t sacrifice passenger space as a result. The rear seats of several midsize three-row SUVs are seemingly created for children who don’t have lower appendages.
Of course, there’s also the convenience of a sliding rear door, a feature offered on exactly zero midsize SUVs. That’s a haymaker in the minivan vs. SUV debate.
Better still, minivans are on par for price with midsize three-row SUVs. And you’re getting a whole lot more car for the money.
“But minivans aren’t cool!” the chorus shouts. Is the Nissan Pathfinder cool? It’s a fine enough midsize three-row SUV, to be sure, but I don’t think anyone who views it as cool understands what it means to be “cool.” And anyone who doesn’t understand what’s cool, in a general sense, is a prime candidate for a minivan. You know what’s not cool? Your eight-year-old opening the rear door of your SUV too hard and bashing the adjacent car’s door, leaving a dent and scratch.
“But I like the way SUVs look — minivans aren’t stylish!”
Okay, minivans aren’t going to win any automotive beauty contests. They aren’t meant to. Their shapes sacrifice style for pragmaticism. You know, probably like you’ve done as a parent. You may have been fashionable once, but I bet you now prioritize comfortable clothes, or those that can be sacrificed to spit-up stains, over those that are haute couture.
“But minivans are boring to drive!”
I won’t necessarily contest this point, but most midsize three-row SUVs aren’t exactly thrilling to pilot either (including, to take advantage of a pun opportunity, the Honda Pilot). And be honest, how much corner carving are you planning to do on the way to your daughter’s gymnastics class? Minivans are comfy, easy to drive and have enough power and agility for everyday treks. You might have to sacrifice agility against some SUVs like the Mazda CX-90, but 90 percent of the time, you’ll just be toiling away on the highway, anyway.
“But what if I need to go off road?”
Sure, minivans aren’t as capable as SUVs off the beaten path. But they can certainly tackle the dirt road that leads up to a glamping site or a microbrewery, which is the extent of most SUV-owners all-terrain journeys.
“You are just reinforcing the belief that minivans are for people who have given up.”
Not necessarily. Minivans are for those who don’t feel compelled to be cool, stylish or hip. They prioritize practicality, comfort, intuitiveness and general ease of use. Being a parent is something we love. But let’s face it. It’s also a pain in the ass a lot of the time. Anything that can make the experience a bit easier, like how we transport a brood, is welcome in my books.
But perhaps the best aspect of minivans is you essentially can’t go wrong in the class. The Pacifica, Odyssey, Sienna and Carnival are all great family haulers. They are all practical, well-equipped and reasonably priced. The same can’t be said for all models in the midsize three-row SUV segment.
So, take it from this parent, shopping a minivan vs SUV isn’t a tough choice if you remove your ego from the equation. The next time you’re tempted to put a midsize SUV in your driveway to serve as your brood mover, at least test a few minivans. Your pride may not appreciate it, but your sanity will benefit, and that, as parents, is something we could all use.