Which is the most family friendly van?
For this case we used the most recently introduced vans and thus the General Motors vans were excluded, as was Mazda's and others. In addition, our pick as best van ever, the Honda Odyssey is being redone for next year with several improvements including a handy lazy susan type tray, more power, and better utility. Although the Honda would hold up well in terms of performance in this case, it just cannot compete in utility with the fresher models.
Nissan's Quest, Chrysler's Town and Country, Toyota's Sienna, and Ford's Freestar are all guilty of trying to provide the buying public with durable, handy, and economical transportation in the form of a van.
The evidence: We dealt with the best sellers in this comparison trying to avoid leather interior, power doors, and DVD options. We were looking for well-priced vehicles that you could get dirty without worry. As for price, every one of the vans was within a thousand dollars of each other with the Chrysler being the most expensive and the Freestar the price leader.
Athletically, the Nissan Quest was the best. It has excellent handling, a powerful drivetrain, and a lot of interior room.
The Town and Country had the flip and fold seating and storage option and it is sensational. If you don't hot foot it down to your nearest Dodge or Chrysler dealer to see how this feature works you are missing one of the great engineering feats in family history. In addition, the third seat folds flat into the floor or swings out to be used as a seat to watch a drive-in move or a soccer game in comfort. The drive train is capable, and you have a quiet ride.
The Freestar had a nice interior, is nicely priced, and has a large engine and plenty of safety features. However, it just not have the fit and finish of the others or the utility.
The Toyota was the most enjoyable to drive. It had a lot of wind noise, though, and the placement of the transmission shifter took a while to get used to as it resides at the bottom of the dash. The Nissan's had the most unusual shifter location using a truck type placement high on the center console next to the driver.
All of the vans were nice to drive, but the Toyota was so easy to park it bordered on amazing. This long van had a turning radius of just 37 feet, or more than two feet less than the competition. That can win a lot of kudos when in tight parking lot situations.
In terms of ease of loading, the Nissan was the champion. The large opening doors made even made it possible to walk into the third seat area without having to move the second seats a bit. However, the rear seats did not fold out of the way as easily as the others.