Defining the Minivan

The template for all minivans

On a day when we usually look wagons, we will take a quick look a minivans. In 1984 there was only one definition for what a minivan should be, these being the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager twins. While these two vehicles have continued to stay the course and remain the true to their original form, although bigger and more bubbly than boxy, they started as other manufacturers decided to move on and attempt to redefine the family vehicle. Can you have a minivan without sliding doors and something other than a two-box shape?


Renault Espace

What features define a vehicle as a minivan instead of a station wagon or an SUV? A vehicle like the Renault Espace wouldn’t be considered a minivan by American standards because it is missing what we think are the required attributes: sliding doors. Since the death of the VW Eurovan, the Europeans have abandoned the minivan market excluding a bit of badge engineering help from Chrysler in the last couple of years. They have placed their faith in the station wagon-like utilitarian vehicles.

As enthusiasts we understand that a station wagon can do almost everything that a minivan can accomplish. In addition station wagons don’t have the same stigma attached that driving a minivan has, but they do have their own, different, stigma. Yet there are still things that a minivan can do that a station wagon will never be able to do. The size, shape, and utility of the simple box outweighs what it lacks in design.
Chevy Orlando and Dawn
What features are mandatory on a minivan?
  • Sliding doors
  • seating for seven
  • two-box design
  • hatch

Sliding doors are, in this humble writer’s view, the greatest simple feature a family vehicle can have. Nothing else has as much usefulness as a good set of sliding doors. Next up on the importance list is the hatch for the same reason. Finally is the number of seats on this list. In my mind you need more than five seats for the standard American family. With the average American family being 2 adults and 2.5 kids, plus their pets, you need the space that a larger vehicle offers.

Flower children not included

In my mind the Dodge Caravan still personifies what the perfect minivan is. It seats seven and offers many options for reconfiguring the interior to be able to store as many toys, people, or animals as possible. It has enough power to not have to worry about merging on the highway. More importantly it looks square enough to not look like Mom’s taxi. This is more important when you consider that most minivans are driven by fathers while the SUVs are in the hands of their wives.


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