Jeff XuCar and Driver
There is no shame in being seen behind the wheel of a minivan. In fact, minivans are often better than crossovers for carrying people and cargo. Minivans also get better fuel economy than many SUVs and their interiors can be amazingly flexible. The Chrysler Pacifica, for example, features Stow ‘n Go seats that flip and fold into the floor. It also offers an onboard vacuum in some models. The Honda Odyssey also offers an onboard vacuum as well as a baby monitor and intercom for addressing occupants in the back seats. Here are our choices for the best minivans and vans of 2021.
Those who are interested in the best minivans and vans from 2020 can refer to last year’s list.
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When it comes to hauling people and cargo, minivans are better than SUVs—a fact we wish more consumers would accept—and the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is our current favorite. The Pacifica is a thoughtfully designed, comfortable family van, and its eager driving dynamics are the icing on the cake. Both a regular V-6 engine and a plug-in hybrid powertrain are offered, and in our testing, each proved to be reasonably fuel-efficient. The second and third rows fold completely flat to transform the Pacifica into a spacious cargo van, making it perfect for hauling bulky items. The Pacifica’s entry-level models were rebranded as the Voyager for 2020, so we review those bargain models separately.
In case you didn’t get the memo, the Dodge Grand Caravan is officially dead, leaving the 2021 Chrysler Voyager as the only choice for a budget minivan from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. And budget friendly it is, with a sub-$30,000 price tag and equipped with only the bare necessities. A cheapo version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the Voyager is powered by a V-6 engine, offers room for up to seven passengers across three rows of seats, and provides ample room for cargo. While we haven’t driven the Voyager, we know that it should deliver largely the same refined driving behavior as the Pacifica since they are essentially the same vehicle. A note to our Canadian readers: In the Great White North, the Voyager will be sold under the Dodge brand wearing the Grand Caravan moniker.
While its name may suggest that it will turn the next family road trip into a grand adventure, the 2021 Honda Odyssey is far more likely to be appreciated for its day-to-day practicality. Its spacious and reconfigurable interior is perfect for hauling kids, cargo, or both and it offers a collection of inventive features that are intended to make family life a little easier. The Odyssey also drives far more pleasantly than its dowdy shape suggests and its silky-smooth V-6 engine pulls strong for highway merging and passing. Honda also makes plenty of safety features standard across the Odyssey lineup, but its main rivals—the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna—do the same and also offer optional all-wheel drive.
Toyota says goodbye to frumpy with the 2021 Sienna minivan’s all-new styling, and an all-hybrid lineup makes it a particularly efficient option among its rivals. The new Sienna’s more stylish body, wide-mouth grille, and squinty headlamps draw inspiration from the 2020 Highlander and give the van a more SUV-like look. Inside, the Sienna receives a similarly daring makeover but still keeps a focus on practicality and family-friendliness. Gone is last year’s V-6 engine. In its place is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder plus two electric motors that make up the van’s standard hybrid powertrain; all-wheel drive is still an option, and Toyota is boasting best-in-class fuel economy.
Luxury is a staple of Mercedes-Benz, but the brand’s line of Metris city vans trades a bit of vanity for versatility. It’s available as a hollowed-out cargo van with a short or long wheelbase as well as a passenger van with flexible seating that will hold up to eight people. Mercedes provides all models with a four-cylinder powertrain that helps them tow up to 5000 pounds, which is an impressive amount compared with what the competition can pull. Along with bountiful active safety technology, the Metris boasts a large touchscreen with contemporary features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Although the 2021 Metris isn’t as refined as the company’s snazziest offerings, it’s still one of the most sophisticated and capable vans on the market.
Ford Transit Connect
The 2021 Ford Transit Connect has the configurability that appeals to tradespeople as well as those who value versatility. This city van can be equipped for hauling up to seven people or hollowed out for transporting stuff, depending on whether the cargo van or the passenger wagon is selected. Ford also offers the choice of a short or long wheelbase, symmetrical rear doors or a rear liftgate, and two different four-cylinder powertrains. Despite its pragmatic personality and bouncy ride quality, the little van has nimble driving characteristics that will be appreciated in traffic and tight spaces. With its countless configurations and a long list of popular options, the 2021 Transit Connect proves it’s quite a useful tool.
Whether you’re looking for an entry into the van life or you need a well-equipped cargo van for business purposes, the 2021 Ford Transit can handle nearly anything you throw at it. Ford offers scores of configurations to fit into your needs, plus a host of driver-assistance features standard. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter offers greater payload capacity, and the Transit’s base price is higher than some rivals, but when pitted against the rest of the field of full-size vans, the Ford still rises to the top of the segment. The Transit’s handling is surprisingly adept for a vehicle its size and the cabin unexpectedly quiet. Whatever the job requirements or family needs, the Transit is up to it.
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