Yeah, SUVs are overhyped. When I owned a 2013 Honda Pilot, which I got for towing a camper and a boat, I thought to myself that a minivan would be better in almost every way except for ground clearance (which doesn’t matter as I don’t go off road and neither do 99% of SUVs) and towing capacity (Pilot was good for 4500 pounds).
Eventuality upgraded to a truck at the hardsided camper air drag was a bit much for the 5 speed in the pilot, especially without manual gear selection. The truck was amazing for towing, towed a 29’, 8700 lb GVWR hardside camper with ease on a 2020 Silverado 1500. But I hated driving a truck as my daily driver, too big, handles like shit, and I ABHORRED it in the winter. People who say you need a 4x4 truck for winter clearly haven’t driven a good FWD sedan with decent winter tires…that combo is f-ing amazing! But I degress…
Anyway I started looked at a hybrid RAV4, for good gas mileage, some more space than a car, and some towing capacity. And my coworker, who has no kids but drives a Chrysler Pacifica as his daily driver, said “get a minivan. It’s the superior utility vehicle.”
I was like “huh. Why didn’t I think of that?” Cause even though I thought a minivan would beat the Pilot for everything but towing when I was actually driving the Pilot, it just wasn’t in my head to get a minivan. Probably because of the stigma they have.
Well I ended up with a 2014 Sienna LE with 103k miles. And I love it! It’s not too big to drive. Turning radius matches most cars. Tons of room inside. Handles way better than that truck did, and probably will be better in the snow too.
This applies to most minivans in general but I really love the power sliding doors. They don’t hit cars, easy to load things, and you can open and close them from the remote. I wish I had the power lift gate too, I’ll probably add a third party retrofit at some point (about $700).
Driver seat isn’t particularly comfortable for my 6’5” body. The seat makes my back curve uncomfortably. I’ll likely end up experimenting with pillows or cutting some foam sheets to fix this. I haven’t spent much time in the passenger seat but people say it’s uncomfortable.
2nd row seats I find to be very comfortable. I don’t ride in them, but I will often go to my van over lunch at work, open the sliding doors, turn on some music and recline in the 2nd row seats.
For moving lots of cargo, or 4x8 sheets of plywood (yes, you can fit several uncut 4x8 sheets of plywood in a Sienna and close the rear liftgate) the 2nd row seats come out. They are decently heavy (40 and 80 pounds or so for the right and left seats, respectively) but they come out in about 15 seconds. Putting them in is a bit annoying to get them lined back up though. My coworker’s Pacifica wins on this, as it has stow and go seats so the 2nd row folds flush into the floor, and you have under-floor storage when the seats are up. But on the flip side, unlike the Sienna the Pacifica 2nd row seats are not comfortable, likely because of how thin they have to be to fold into the floor. Note that 4th gen Siennas do not have removable 2nd row seats anymore because of seat mounted airbags. They can be removed by unbolting and then faking the airbag but it’s not something you’re likely going to want to do unless you’re building a camper van or otherwise do not need the 2nd row seats.
I don’t have experience with any other Siennas except my 2014.
3rd row lacks headroom for my height, but unlike the Pilot is actually otherwise very usable for adults. Fold flat into the floor, behind the seats, in a 60/40 split. Takes just a few seconds to fold or unfold the seats, with manual seats. When up, the space they fold into adds lots of cargo space behind the seats (again, unlike the Pilot).
I don’t have kids but they should be very good for such. Way more space than any other type of vehicle. Sliding doors mean it’ll be much easier than other vehicles to load kids in.
I get about 21-23 MPG with mostly highway driving.
Unsure, but I see lots of references to 2nd gens with well over 200k miles. My personal opinion is nearly any modern vehicle is just getting warmed up at 100k, and could go to 300-400k miles easily with proper maintenance. The key there is proper maintenance, most people drive cars to an early death by not doing such. Around here, cars are likely to die by rusting out before you ever get to a point where they are otherwise not worth repairing (and if your willing to spend some time and money, rusting death could be greatly extended too).
My 2014 is in great shape, although the water pump died here at 113k miles. I’m halfway through replacing it myself for $120 in parts, annoying to do but if you’ve ever worked on cars it’s not hard. But I’ve heard this can be a $1600 job if you take it to the dealer to do.
My Pilot was $2200 if I remember at the dealer for this. But in addition to the timing belt, since they were in there I had them do tensioner, water pump, etc, and they also checked the valve clearances since that was due at the same time as the timing belt. Luckily that was, what, like 105k mile job, unlike some cars with 60k mile timing belts.
But on the flip side as mentioned I’m currently changing a water pump at 113k miles, and it seems not uncommon for these vans around this mileage. And I’ve seen several people say a dealership quoted $1600 for this job. Having just gotten to the point I removed the water pump, that seems a little steep. Likely a good independent shop could do it for significantly less.