I have a family of five and am undecided between a Dodge Grand Caravan and a Toyota Sienna. I also commute to work – it’s a 36-kilometre round-trip – and I am also considering a Toyota Camry because a four-cylinder would be better than a V-6. – Yasir in Toronto
Vaughan: Yasir, you answered your own question right off the top: Dodge Grand Caravan.
There is a stage in your life when a minivan is not a shameful thing – and you’re there now. I’ve done a zillion kilometres in various Caravans, hauling kids, dogs, building materials, furniture. Across the continent twice, trouble-free.
The Caravans get better and better while being priced lower and lower. Get the Canadian Value Package and you’ll get everything you need for a little more than $19,000. End of story.
Cato: I cannot understand why so many people have such a big problem with minivans. You cannot buy a more sensible, more affordable family vehicle. Impossible. The minivan stigma is silly.
Now think about this. Here at the 30th anniversary of Chrysler’s minivans, Yasir could roll right down to a Dodge dealer and drive away in a 2014 Grand Caravan, Canada Value Package. For $19,998, including freight. That’s a stunning price. Or what about a $114, bi-weekly payment on a lease, with nothing down. We’re talking $228 a month for a wagon with three rows and all the Stow ’n Go storage a hockey dad or a soccer mom could ask for.
Of course, a Chrysler minivan isn’t sexy. It’s not a sports car, either. But that 3.6-litre V-6, standard, is plenty gutsy – 283 horsepower. The six-speed autobox is a nice shifter. Visibility in all directions is better than it should be in a big, long family bus. The seating if fine and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick. Wanna tow a trailer? This rig is rated for 1,633 kg.
Vaughan: Not so fast, Cato. Yasir, we need to talk about the Toyota Sienna. It is an excellent vehicle and just as nerdy as a minivan must be.
And I would argue it’s more refined than the common-as-dirt Caravans, though the Toyota costs thousands more. Buying a minivan is not something you do for passion but for practicality. And practical includes saving dough.
Cato: So why spend six seconds shopping a Sienna? I’ll tell you why: the Sienna is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive (AWD). Chrysler used to offer traction at all corners, but no more.
Yasir, if you’re traipsing up to Collingwood on the weekends for skiing, the Sienna is worth a look. Take it all in – the quality is good, safety first-rate, visibility as good as a Caravan. But the Dodge has more versatile storage spaces and that Canada Value Package is $16,000 less.
You read that correctly. The Sienna AWD LE, with seating for seven, lists for a hefty $36,190. That’s a stiff premium to pay for a Toyota that is less useful all-around than the Dodge. What could you do with $16,000?
The AWD piece is important for anyone rolling around snowy Georgian Bay in January. But you can buy a lot of good winter tires for $16,000. Bottom line: only committed Toyota lovers are willing to spend nearly twice the money on a Sienna.
Vaughan: Which Yasir appears to be. He mentioned the Camry, correct, Cato? That’s a fine little car, but not big enough, not once you’ve packed in two adults, three kids and all the usual family gear. Where do you put a friend or two? Yasir, that’s going to be a problem. You kids have friends and your kids will want to invite them along for rides.
Face facts, Yasir. You are now in your minivan life stage. Embrace the suburban mindset.
Cato: We should at least point Yasir in a third direction, towards the crossover option. You will find a handful of modest-sized crossovers with three rows of seating and they might be worth a look.
Dodge, for instance, has mega-deals on offer for the Journey. It’s not the most refined rig, but perfectly solid, and available with temporary seating in a third row. Nissan has just launched a new Rogue, too, and you can get it with a third row.
This reinvented Rogue looks smooth and clean. Let’s say you go for the SV with AWD ($28,748) with the options package that includes a third row ($2,050). Voila: you’re north of $30,000. Remember that Dodge minivan for less than $20,000?
Vaughan: Take note of the date, Yasir. Cato is right and it’s a little shocking. The Rogue’s a nice vehicle, but take the flat out bargain Yasir – the Grand Caravan. And say no to absolutely every costly extra they want you to add.
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 Dodge Grand Caravan Canada Value Package
2014 Toyota Sienna LE 7-passenger AWD
2014 Nissan Rogue SV AWD wi/Family and Tech package
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
12.2 city/7.9 highway
12.6 city/8.7 highway
8.2 city/6.2 highway
$19,998 includes freight
Source: car manufacturers
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