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Jack Sanders
Jack Sanders

Mini Van

The 2022 Odyssey has been awarded the coveted 2022 TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in recognition of its superior crash-safety performance. The Odyssey is the first minivan to achieve such a distinction.

mini van


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Compared with a full-size van, most minivans are based on a passenger car platform and have a lower body. Early models such as the Ford Aerostar and Chevrolet Astro utilized a compact pickup truck platform.[3][4]

The largest size of minivans is also referred to as 'Large MPV' and became popular following the introduction of the 1984 Dodge Caravan and Renault Espace. Typically, these have platforms derived from D-segment passenger cars or compact pickups. Since the 1990s, the smaller compact MPV and mini MPV sizes of minivans have also become popular.[5]

The term minivan originated in both North America and in the United Kingdom in 1959. In the UK, Minivan referred to a small van manufactured by Austin and it was based on the newly introduced Mini car. In the US, the term was used in order to differentiate the smaller passenger vehicles from full-size vans (such as the Ford E-Series, Dodge Ram Van, and Chevrolet Van), which were then simply called 'vans'.[6]

In contrast to larger vans, most modern minivans/MPVs use a front-engine, front-wheel drive layout, while some model lines offer all-wheel drive as an option. Alongside the adoption of the form factor introduced by Chrysler minivans, the configuration allows for less engine intrusion and a lower floor in the passenger compartment. In line with larger full-size vans, unibody construction has been commonly used (the spaceframe design of the Renault Espace and the General Motors APV minivans being exceptions).

Minivans/MPVs use either a two-box or a one-box body design with A, B, C and D pillars. The cabin may be fitted with two, three, or four rows of seats, with the most common configurations being 2+3+2 or 2+3+3. Compared to other types of passenger vehicles, the body shape of minivans is designed to maximize interior space for both passengers and cargo. It is achieved by lengthening the wheelbase, creating a flatter floor, taller roof, and more upright side profile, but not as prominent as commercial-oriented vans that are boxier in profile. Practicality and comfort for passengers are also enhanced with a larger rear cargo space opening and larger windows.[8]

Some minivans/MPVs may use sliding doors while others offer conventional forward-hinged doors. Initially, a feature of the 1982 Nissan Prairie, the 1996 Chrysler minivans introduced a driver-side sliding door; by 2002, all minivans were sold with doors on both sides of the body. Most minivans are configured with a rear liftgate; few minivans have used panel-style rear doors, for example, cargo versions of the Chevrolet Astro, Ford Aerostar, and the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.

Most minivans are designed with a reconfigurable interior to carry either passengers or cargo. The first examples were designed with removable rear seats unlatched from the floor for removal and storage (in line with larger vans); however, users gave poor reception to the design as many seats were heavy and hard to remove. In 1995, the Honda Odyssey was introduced with a third-row seat that folded flat into the floor, which was then adopted by many competitors, including Chrysler that introduced third-row and fold-flat second-row seats in 2005.

Before the "minivan" term, the 1936 Stout Scarab is often regarded as the first minivan.[10][11][12][13] The passenger seats in the Scarab were moveable and could be configured for the passengers to sit around a table in the rear of the cabin. Passengers entered and exited the Scarab via a centrally-mounted door.

In 1950, the Volkswagen Type 2 adapted a bus-shaped body to the chassis of a small passenger car (the Volkswagen Beetle). When Volkswagen introduced a sliding side door to the Type 2 in 1968, it then had the prominent features that would later come to define a minivan: compact length, three rows of forward-facing seats, station wagon-style top-hinged tailgate/liftgate, sliding side door, passenger car base.[15]

Minivans developed for the North American market are distinct from most minivan/MPVs marketed in other regions such as Europe and Asia owing to their larger footprint and larger engine. As of 2020[update], average exterior length for minivans in North America ranged around 200 inches (5.08 m), while many models uses V6 engines with more than 270 horsepower (201 kW; 274 PS) mainly to fulfill towing capacity requirements which is demanded by North American customers.[17][18]

In 2021, sales of the segment totalled 310,630 units in the U.S. (2.1% of the overall car market), and 33,544 in Canada (2.0% of the overall car market).[19][20] As of 2022[update], the passenger-oriented minivan segment consists of the Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Carnival.[21]

In the late 1970s, Chrysler began a development program to design "a small affordable van that looked and handled more like a car."[22] The result of this program was the first American minivans based on the S platform, the 1984 Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan.[23] The S minivans debuted the minivan design features of front-wheel drive, a flat floor and a sliding door for rear passengers.[22][24][25]

The term minivan came into use largely in comparison to size to full-size vans; at six feet tall or lower, 1980s minivans were intended to fit inside a typical garage door opening.[26] In 1984, The New York Times described minivans "the hot cars coming out of Detroit,"[27] noting that "analysts say the mini-van has created an entirely new market, one that may well overshadow the... station wagon."[27]

To match the launch of minivans by American manufacturers, Japanese manufacturers introduced the Toyota TownAce, Nissan Vanette, and Mitsubishi Delica to North America in 1984, 1986, and 1987, respectively. These vehicles were marketed with the generic "Van" and "Wagon" names (for cargo and passenger vans, respectively).[29][30]

In 1989, the Mazda MPV was released as the first Japanese-brand minivan developed from the ground up specifically for the North American market. Its larger chassis allowed for the fitment of an optional V6 engine and four-wheel drive. In contrast to the sliding doors of American minivans, a hinged passenger-side door was used. A driver-side door was added for 1996, as Mazda gradually remarketed the model line as an early crossover SUV.

Following the 1990 discontinuation of the Nissan Vanette into the United States, Nissan also ended the sale of the second-generation Nissan Axxess. Nissan reentered the segment by forming a joint venture with Ford to develop and assemble a minivan which became the Nissan Quest and its Mercury Villager counterpart.

Toyota also introduced the Toyota Previa in 1990 to replace the Van/Wagon in North America. It was designed solely as a passenger vehicle sized to compete with American-market minivans. For 1998, the Toyota Sienna became the first Japanese-brand minivan assembled in North America, replacing the Toyota Previa in that market. For 1999, Honda introduced a separate version of the Odyssey for North America, with North America receiving a larger vehicle with sliding doors.

The highest selling year for minivans was in 2000, when 1.4 million units were sold. However, in the following years, sales of minivans began to decrease. In 2013, sales of the segment reached approximately 500,000, one-third of its 2000 peak.[32] Market share of minivans in 2019 reached around 2% after a steady decline from 2004, when the segment recorded above 6% of share.[33] It has been suggested that the falling popularity of minivans is due to the popularity of SUVs and crossovers, and its increasingly undesirable image as a vehicle for older drivers or the soccer mom demographics.[32][34][35]

Due to the market decline, North American sales of the Volkswagen Eurovan ceased in 2003. Ford exited the segment in 2006 when the Ford Freestar was canceled, Chrysler discontinued its short-wheelbase minivans in 2007, and General Motors exited the segment in 2009 with the cancellation of the Chevrolet Uplander. However, Volkswagen marketed the Volkswagen Routan (a rebadged Chrysler RT minivans) between 2009 and 2013. In 2010, Ford started importing the commercial-oriented Ford Transit Connect Wagon from Turkey. A similar vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz Metris entered the North American market in 2016.

The Kia Sedona, which was introduced for the 2002 model year, is notable for being the first minivan from a South Korean manufacturer in the region.[36] For 2007, Kia also introduced the three-row Kia Rondo compact MPV, where it was prominently marketed as a crossover due to its small size and the use of hinged rear doors.[37][38]

The 1984 Renault Espace was the first European-developed minivan developed primarily for passenger use (as the Volkswagen Caravelle/Vanagon was a derivative of a commercial van). Beginning development in the 1970s under the European subsidiaries of Chrysler,[45] the Espace was intended as a successor for the Matra Rancho, leading to its use of front-hinged doors. While slow-selling at the time of its release, the Espace would go on to become the most successful European-brand minivans.[46]

Initially intending to market the Espace in North America through American Motors Corporation (AMC), the 1987 sale of AMC to Chrysler canceled the plans for Renault to do so. In the late 1980s, Chrysler and Ford commenced sales of American-designed minivans in Europe (categorized as full-size in the region), selling the Chrysler Voyager and Ford Aerostar. General Motors imported the Oldsmobile Silhouette (branded as the Pontiac Trans Sport), later marketing the American-produced Opel/Vauxhall Sintra. 041b061a72


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