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car review

I’m looking for a basic minivan from 2012 or so for around $15,000. I’m not a fan of the looks, or the price, of the newest Honda Odyssey. A Dodge Grand Caravan seems like a great deal, but I also like the Nissan Quest. – Terry, Kelowna, B.C.

The Dodge Grand Caravan and the Nissan Quest have more reliable – and more expensive – competitors. But both the Caravan and Quest offer good value for the money, reviewers say.

The Caravan is Canada’s top seller, selling nearly 47,000 in 2015. The Toyota Sienna is second with nearly 14,000 sold and the Honda Odyssey is third with more than 11,000 sales.

Chrysler’s Town & Country was basically the identical twin of the Caravan, but comes standard with more features – dual power sliding doors, a backup camera and a power-lift gate – for about $10,000 more. For 2017, it’s been replaced by the Pacifica minivan.

A base 2012 Toyota Sienna LE has an average used price of $20,675. A base 2012 Honda Odyssey goes for $23,379.

Consumer Reports gives the Sienna excellent predicted used-car reliability for 2012. Honda’s is average.


2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SE

Fifth generation: 2008-present

Average price: $14,676 (Canadian Black Book)

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6

Transmission/drive: six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.7 city; 9.4 highway

In print ads from 1984, Canadian magician Doug Henning fit three tigers into the back of a Magic Wagon – Chrysler’s nickname for the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.

Now, Plymouth is long gone, but the Grand Caravan hasn’t vanished yet – and foldable Stow ’N Go seating makes it easier to fit those tigers in.

Another magic trick? The base Grand Caravan is also cheaper – new and used – than the competition. “It has no snob appeal, but a penny saved is a penny earned,” then-Globe Drive contributor Michael Vaughan said in 2012. “The design has been cleaned up, the new interior is the best ever and it even has a much improved new engine.” liked the versatile rear-seating configurations, welcoming cabin and capable handling, but griped that the ride wasn’t as smooth as rivals, there’s limited driver leg room and only seven seats compared with eight for the Odyssey and Sienna.

It’s also less reliable than the Odyssey and Sienna. From 2010 to 2013, Consumer Reports gave the Grand Caravan its worst rating for predicted used-car reliability. Complaints included rough shifting and premature brake wear.

Consumer Reports also complained about fuel economy and complicated radio controls – although it liked the cargo flexibility and standard safety equipment.

There was one significant Transport Canada recall – more than 100,000 2010-14 Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country vans were recalled to replace a rear-vent window switch on the driver’s door that could catch on fire if liquids were spilled on it.

New, the base price was $27,995 before rebates.


2012 Nissan Quest S

Fourth generation: 2010-13

Average price: $16,137 (Canadian Black Book)

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6

Transmission/drive: continuously variable transmission/front-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.6 city; 9.6 highway

Nissan finally gave up on its Quest after slow sales – it sold fewer than 700 in 2013. But reviewers thought it was worthy.

“I find it the most interesting to look at.” Vaughan said, comparing it with the competition. “I like that wraparound rear window in darkly tinted glass; it hides the roof pillars. I like its gutsy, 260-horsepower V-6.”

Vaughan wished the Quest had seats that bury under the floor like Chrysler’s.

“If you’re driving a box on wheels, you want to be able to turn it into an empty box on wheels,” Vaughan said.

Then-Globe Drive contributor Jeremy Cato called the Quest “very functional.”

“We’re talking about a giant box with headlights, endless cup holders and storage compartments, good seats and all sorts of high-tech features available,” Cato said. “Even the starter model has soft-touch materials all around and a nice mix of colours and textures.”

Consumer Reports liked the ride, powertrain, fuel economy, plush interior and fold-flat seats. But it said the Quest wasn’t as agile as it could be on the road.

Consumer Reports gave the 2012 Quest its worst rating for predicted used-car reliability.

About 1,500 2011 and ’12 Quests were recalled to reprogram the engine-control module after a fuel-pump-control program glitch could cause the engine to stall when driving at low speeds downhill with less than 1/4 tank of gas.

New, the base Quest started at $29,998 before rebates.