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Best of the Lot

The best minivan replacement is... another minivan? Yes. Add to ...

We are a family of six (two adults and four teens, yikes!) who currently drive a nine-year-old Honda minivan. While we love the capacity, two teens will be at university next year. So we are thinking of getting a slightly smaller SUV for the rest of us.

We like the looks of the Toyota Highlander and the fact that it has space for six with the third row, but are surprised at the $45,000 price. We would like leather seats (did I mention we have a black Lab as well?), a GPS system and would not want to spend more than $45,000. – Elizabeth and Peter in Toronto.

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Cato: You think you’ve lost two teenagers to university? Think again. They’re coming home for at least four months of the year and you’ll be moving their stuff back and forth, too.

Vaughan: You’re thinking about kids, but I think it’s very considerate of Liz and Pete to get the leather seats, so the Lab has something to chew.

Cato: Chew on this: Liz and Pete, you have many options in sport-utes, and almost all of them are available with navigation. Or you can use your smartphone and save thousands. Whatever you do, don’t forget to negotiate for the discount. Every car company has ‘em.

Vaughan: Cato, I must point out the most important Honda Odyssey feature for these two: an optional in-car vacuum cleaner (HondaVAC).

Cleaning up after the Lab and picking up all those little chewed bits of the former leather seats will be a breeze. But this is the best-of-the-best minivan and it’s fairly stylish – doesn’t look like a refrigerator box on wheels.

Cato: Vaughan’s canine affinity is well documented; he knows more about them can cars, in fact. Nonetheless, Vaughan is onto something. You’ve had nine years with your Odyssey and the present one is much better. On top of that, the Odyssey is the least stigmatized minivan. Last year, sales were actually UP.

2014 Honda Odyssey
 

Vaughan: This is an eminently sensible and even elegant minivan. Cato, the 2014 Honda Odyssey seats up to eight people and comes with a 3.5-litre V-6 engine and front-wheel drive. It’s quiet, comfortable, handles very well and is very luxurious.

Cato: And it’s on sale. Honda Canada has slapped up to $3,500 in discounts on the Odyssey, which means the $42,050 EX-L with Navi goes for less than $40,000. And you’ll save on fuel thanks to cylinder deactivation – three cylinders shut down if you don’t need the power.

And while we’re on fuel efficiency, go for a spin in a Nissan Pathfinder. Last year Pathfinder sales nearly tripled over 2012 and with good reason: for about $40,000 you get a fully loaded SUV with three rows, great crash scores and a 3.5-litre V-6 engine mated to a fuel-thrifty continuously variable transmission. All-wheel drive is optional.

Vaughan: Cato, I noticed you managed to say the words “continuously variable transmission” without adding some derogatory adjective. Getting soft?

Cato: Not as soft as you.

Vaughan: I think the CVT works great in a people hauler. Besides, the Pathfinder’s interior is high-quality and a access to third-row seats is very good, although I worry the Lab won’t have enough room in the cargo area – unless he’s up in the third row happily chewing.

2014 Toyota Highlander
 

Cato: And then there’s the Highlander. Liz and Pete don’t strike me as being adventurous types, so the Highlander would fit them well. My advice: look for a leftover 2013 model which comes with a $4,000 discount.

Yes, Toyota updated the 2014 model, but didn’t change anything of substance beneath the skin. Is the 2014’s new top hat worth $4,000?

Vaughan: Cato, you have a point. I think Lizzie and Pete already choked on the price of the 2014 Highlander and I would too.

But let’s talk value for a moment. What if you could get something that would fit the bill beautifully for about twenty grand. Swallow your pride, abandon all hope of brand cachet and don’t worry about what the neighbours think – get to the Dodge store and pick up a heavily discounted Grand Caravan.

Yes it’s slab-sided, but the interior is as good or better than the stuff that costs twice as much. I’m sure the Lab would find something to chew on in the non-leather interior. This would be my choice.

Cato: With two kids off to university and two more headed there, a sub-$20,000 minivan might make the most sense of all.

Vaughan You know my answer. Value. Therefore Caravan. Swallow your pride and accept a humiliating, common, everyone-has-one minivan and donate the twenty grand you’ll save to a dog rescue/adoption centre.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2014 Honda Odyssey EX-L w/NAVI

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited

2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SE/SXT

Wheelbase (mm):

3000

2790

3078

Length (mm):

5153

4855

5151

Width (mm):

2011

1925

1998

Height (mm)

1737

1780

1725

Engine:

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

3.6-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

248/250 lb-ft

270/248 lb-ft

283/260 lb-ft

Drive system:

front-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

Transmission

six-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2067

2045

2050

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.9 city/7.1 highway using regular fuel

11.5 city/8.2 highway using regular fuel

12.2 city/7.9 highway using regular fuel

Base price

$42,050

$45,100

$27,995

Source: car manufacturers

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