With improved styling, fancier features and a new model, the Ford C-Max, which crams a minivan experience into a crossover SUV-sized package, minivans could make a comeback this year, some auto insiders say. Here's a look at the new models at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit recently. Detroit Free Press
Toyota Sienna .
Toyota redesigned the Sienna for a sportier appearance in 2010. Wider and lower, the minivan resembles Toyota's Venza crossover. It has reclining second-row seats with footrests and a wide-screen video display. The Sienna is the only minivan that now comes with a four-cylinder engine. The 2.7-liter 187-horsepower model provides good fuel economy, while a 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is available. It also is the only minivan to offer all-wheel-drive as well as the standard front-drive. Its four-cylinder engine is rated 19 city/24 highway. The V-6 scored 18 city/24 highway with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models check in at 16 city/22 highway. Prices start at $24,560.
The Routan is Volkswagen's version of the Chrysler Town & Country. Chrysler builds it alongside its own minivans. VW reworked the Routan's exterior, creating a grille, lights and badges in harmony with the rest of the German brand's vehicles. The interior also features more luxurious materials. It comes with the same 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission as the Chrysler and Dodge minivans. The EPA has not published fuel economy figures for the Routan, but they should be identical to the Town & Country: 17 city/25 highway. Prices start at $26,930.
This compact seven-seat minivan goes on sale in 2012. Ford's new C-Max aims to offer young parents a well-equipped, fuel-efficient family hauler for around $25,000. It has three rows of seats and theoretically seats seven, but that assumes that small children are riding in the rear seats. Power comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a more fuel-efficient turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed automatic transmission should help the C-Max score an EPA highway fuel economy rating above 30 mpg.
Chrysler Town & Country
The Town & Country gets some significant upgrades for 2011. A new engine improves power and fuel economy, while the exterior gets a new look. The interior is wrapped in classy, soft-touch materials. In addition, it still boasts the Stow 'N Go second-row seats Chrysler invented. The van offers a new, 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission that scored 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway in EPA tests. Prices start at $21,800 for the Grand Caravan and $30,160 for the Town & Country.
The Odyssey was redesigned to provide more room and better fuel economy. Its 248-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic gets better mileage than a Toyota Sienna powered by a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder. Unfortunately, Honda offers the six-speed as an option only in the most expensive Odyssey models — the $40,000-plus Touring and Touring Elite. Odysseys with the five-speed transmission scored 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway in EPA tests. Stepping up to the optional six-speed boosts fuel economy to 19 city/28 highway. Prices start at $27,800.