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Minivans to make a comeback?


I just returned from the launch of Toyota’s new Sienna minivan (which I cant talk about yet), and company spokespeople declared that they think this segment, which has seen a sales slide ever since SUVs and crossovers took off, is due for a bit of a rebirth.

One could be cynical and figure that, of course, they’d say that. But perhaps there’s something to the assertion. There is a whole generation of younger consumer that isn’t as concerned with what the neighbors think as those who drive only what’s fashionable. These are the folk who have made boxes like the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, and Toyota’s own xB (sold as a Scion) successful. Now they’re breeding, and need practical transport—and sliding doors don’t scare them.

The other demographic expected to drive this renewed interest in minivans is empty nesters. They often had a minivan in the past, and now there are grandkids to cart around. As much as manufacturers try to make crossovers more minivan-like, the ease of entry and exit on older joints, and better storage and hauling options of a classic ‘multipurpose vehicle’ (what they call minivans in Europe) makes too much sense for these revered elders to ignore.

I might’ve dismissed this as so much hyperbole if it wasn’t for my dad, whose need to haul three grandchildren around on almost a daily basis necessitated the departure of his beloved Mazda6 wagon. As this change took place at the height of gas prices, we decided Mazda’s 5 minivan was a good way to go: six people, 25mpg. For the first few months he’d tell me he couldn’t wait till the lease was up and he could go back to a more conventional car. But now he won’t consider anything except another minivan for when the 5’s lease ends.