Even with the crossover SUVs flooding the market, nothing can beat the minivan’s blend of car-like handling and versatile practicality. Generally built on a passenger car’s platform, the minivan features three rows of seats; both the second- and third-row seats can be removed or folded down into the floor to maximize cargo space.
However, anyone looking for a 2012 eight-passenger minivan will find that the options are limited, but of high quality: the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Both of these feature bench seating in the second and third rows. Other minivans hold just seven passengers with individual seats in the second row and a bench in the back.
2012 Honda Odyssey
This sleek minivan has been consistently rated highly by the automotive press despite the steep price tag. As a long-time top pick for many automotive editors, it’s especially well-known for its comfort and responsive handling. But this year’s model really shines with its unique adjustable second-row seats with a walk-in feature. Five trim levels are available, with MSRP ranging from $28,225 to $43,675 without added options.
The 2012 Honda Odyssey is powered by a 248-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and offers front-wheel drive only. Fuel economy is 18 mpg city/27 highway.
Depending on the model, standard exterior features include heat-rejecting glass, power sliding doors, programmable remote entry system, power moonroof and tailgate, and memory side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down.
On the inside, amenities include programmable power tailgate and door locks, as well as an integrated cooler. A navigation system with voice recognition and a multi-angle rearview camera are optional on some models and standard on others.
Occupants can enjoy the audio system’s 2 GB CD library, SiriusXM satellite radio, and DVD entertainment system. The high-end Touring Elite model even builds in a DVD system with HDMI technology, 12 speakers, and surround sound theater mode.
Honda is no slouch when it comes to safety, and the Odyssey is no exception. A complete set of airbags, stability control, and traction control are standard on every model. The Odyssey has consistently earned top scores on government crash tests.
2012 Toyota Sienna
Image Credit: Toyota Pressroom
This proven anchor is praised by reviewers for its spaciousness, comfort, build quality, and power. After last year’s redesign, the 2012 Toyota Sienna also comes in five trim levels ranging from $25,060 to $40,475.
The more basic models come standard with a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine that can be upgraded to a 266-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, the same as the higher end models. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional on the higher trims. Fuel economy is 19 mpg city/24 highway for the 4-cylinder engine, 18/25 for the V6 with front-wheel drive, and 17/23 for the V6 with all-wheel drive.
Standard exterior features vary according to the trim level and include a windshield wiper de-icer, dual power sliding side doors, power liftgate with jam protection, moonroof or dual moonroof, and rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers.
Interior features include tri-zone automatic climate control, backup camera, rear digital climate control panel, DVD navigation system, and power rear quarter windows.
The Sienna’s entertainment system consists of a six-speaker sound system, which can be upgraded for a 10-speaker surround-sound system and rear dual-view DVD entertainment center.
Like the Odyssey, the Sienna also boasts a long history of safety and includes all the safety devices on all models: a full set of airbags, stability control, traction control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology. Top ratings are consistently earned in government crash tests.