Aug
27

SUV vs. minivan

by lisacng / 4 comments / Read comments or add one!

 
[source]

We’re considering a bigger vehicle because our current car wouldn’t be able to fit another child (not that we’re considering another child immediately…). For any long-distance travel, we’ll always bring the two dogs – which we will clip-in for safety – so we’ll need an additional seat or two. I told my husband that I didn’t want a minivan because they’re not “cool”. But that answer isn’t satisfying him, so I guess I’ve got to do my research.

[source YouTube]

So, here’s my wishlist in order of importance:

  • Cost
  • Available 3rd row seating
  • Fuel-efficient in its class
  • Reasonable cargo space with 3rd row seating in-use
  • Overhead vents so that a rear-facing child can get some AC/heat
  • Optional DVD system
  • Power-sliding doors (do SUVs have auto-closing doors??)

I went to auto section of MSN.com. I narrowed my search to SUVs and vans, fuel economy 15+, and 6-9+ passengers. Here’s a quick comparison of the results (grouped by vans and SUVs, and then listed by highest city mpg):

Make/Model
MSRP
City mpg
Highway mpg
Vans



$19,345 – $24,025
21
28
Honda Odyssey
$28,075 – $43,525
18-19
27-28
$26,930 – $43,240
17
25
Toyota Sienna
$25,060 – $40,570
16-19
22-24
SUVs



Toyota Highlander Hybrid
$38,140 – $43,795
28
28
Mitsubishi Outlander
$21,995 – $27,795
19-23
25-28
Toyota RAV4
$22,475 – $28,785
19-22
26-28
Toyota 4Runner
$30,305 – $40,435
17
22-23
Mazda CX9
$29,135 – $34,535
16-17
22-24
Honda Pilot
$28,320 – $40,670
16-17
22-23
Acura MDX
$42,930 – $54,455
16
21
Subaru Tribeca
$30,495 – $35,795
16
21
Volvo XC90
$38,200 – $48,000
14-16
21-22

Seems like the least-efficient vans are the VW Routan and Toyota Sienna. The obvious gas-guzzling SUV is the Volvo XC90 (so sad since I’ve always wanted a Volvo). If I had to purchase on gas-efficiency alone, it’d be the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. But I’m not buying on gas-efficiency alone, so let’s get on with the details.

To “score” each make/model, I priced each car with the trim that fulfilled as much as my wishlist as possible.

I then weighted each criteria from 1-4:
Cost/MSRP
4
Passenger no.
4
Fuel-efficiency
3.5
Cargo behind 3rd row
3.5
Cargo behind 2nd row
2
AC control
2
DVD system
2
Power-sliding/Power tailgate
1

After some geeky normalizations and utilization of min/max functions, the winners with the top scores are (*drumroll, please!*):

Van: Honda Odyssey (25.76 pts out of possible 28.19 pts for “perfect” van)
SUV: Mazda CX9 (24.01 pts out of possible 25.97 pts for “perfect” SUV)

I was kinda hoping that the winning SUV would be the Highlander Hybrid, but it lost because of its price ($47,225 after options!). A close second in the minivan category was the Sienna with 25.60 pts. The runner-up in the SUV category was the Pilot (yay to my SIL and her husband who have this car) with 23.86 pts.

Now, if you compare the Odyssey to the CX9, the Odyssey obviously wins because of much lower cost and larger cargo space.

Front exterior: Top Odyssey, Bottom CX9
Back exterior: Top Odyssey, Bottom CX9
Interior: Top Odyssey (8 passengers), Bottom CX9 (7 passengers)
Cargo area: Top Odyssey, Bottom CX9

Do you have other suggestions? 
Are there inaccuracies in my research? 
Please chime in!
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Thanks for doing this analysis!!!

Reply

L Ng January 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm

No problem! It was my pleasure!

Reply

louiseq April 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm

So, did you end up buying the mini van? I have the same problem here.
I live in Utah and i think mini van is soooo mommy with so many kids !!!
Im looking for a car that can fit my family of 6. And i need a car that does a good gas mileage because i go to school at night everyday(35 miles). So i kind think that the mini van Odyssey is mommy but brings everything i want… i just have to stop complaining!!!

Reply

lisacng April 16, 2013 at 10:25 am

Hi louiseq, Thank you for commenting on this post. Like you, I started out not wanting a minivan, but it certainly grew on me as I did my research. We didn’t get the van in 2011, when I posted this, but just got one a few weeks ago because our ’97 SUV finally called it quits. We got the Honda Odyssey EX (8-passenger) and love it! It drives very smoothly, and it’s really easy to maneuver. It will certainly fit 2 carseats and 2 dogs for cartrips. We drive mostly local, so our average mileage is 17-18 mpg. Not great, but still better than our old SUV. So, hopefully the post and my response help with your decision! I really do think that it costs right, has all of my criteria (we opted NOT to get the DVD system), gets good mileage in its class, and is really a great car to drive. Good luck! Would love to know what you finally decide.

Reply

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