In the 1980s, the minivan swiftly replaced the station wagon as the vehicle of choice for large families. SUVs cut into their dominance in the 1990s, and since then crossovers have taken over the market. Giants like GM and Ford quit the family minivan business years ago. And yet these boxy haulers persevere when conventional wisdom says they should be dead. You can still buy one right off the showroom floor, domestic or imported, luxurious or basic, just like in their heyday. It seems that the minivan is simply too useful to ever go away.
The minivan's saving grace is space—plenty of it for people and things. You get legitimate seating for eight passengers (or seven with those fancy captain's chairs), plus nifty features like foldout tables and underfloor storage cubbies. Add the available video entertainment system, and you have a rec room on wheels.
Anyone who's ridden in the third row of a crossover or SUV knows that it's for children only. Not so with a minivan, where even the rearmost passengers get a reasonably comfy seat (not a padded shelf) and big windows to look out of. The sliding side doors may seem industrial, but they make getting in and out easy for everyone. Since minivans don't pretend to be sporty, their bodies are tall and headroom abundant.
With the second and third rows folded, the average minivans offers about 140 cubic feet of cargo space. The Toyota Sienna leads the class at 150 cubic feet. The most you can get in a crossover is 116 cubic feet in the Chevrolet Traverse. The typical large crossover holds much less, around 80 cubic feet. This may seem like an unfair comparison, but that's the point. When it comes to interior room, no other type of vehicle can really compete with the minivan.
Looks are a different story, which is why the minivan has fallen offer many buyers' radar. Although their fronts and tails have been updated over the years, the basic shape of minivans hasn't changed. How could it? When sheer space is the top priority, only a tall box will do. That makes a crossover or SUV for more appropriate for the style-conscious. The smart buyers drive minivans.