Still the Champions of Practicality
3rd Place – 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
The Grand Caravan is the top-selling minivan in America and with a starting price a hair over $21,000, it’s easy to see why. Packed full of value, the Grand Caravan SXT had the most options out of any van in this test despite an as-tested price of just $31,905. That is only $1,200 more than the stripped out Odyssey and much cheaper than the Toyota Sienna.
So why didn’t it win? Part of the reason has to do with the Grand Caravan’s biggest claim to fame: its “stow-and-go” seats. Both second and third row seats can flip right into the floor to offer especially versatile cargo space. With the other two vans, the middle seats have to be taken out by hand and stored somewhere else. Need to take a van full of cargo one way, and six passengers back the other way? That’s a “no-can-do” with the other two…
SEE ALSO: 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T Review
So what’s the issue? Well, the stow-and-go system sacrifices seat comfort. In order to be so compact, they have the thinnest, most uncomfortable seatback and cushion of the three. There’s also reduced functionality in other ways, like less forward and aft sliding range. And if you’ve got a baby seat installed, there’s no way to access the third row except to climb through the middle.
Feature Packed and Dull
The interior of the Grand Caravan scored the worst in the comparison with the cheapest fit-and-finish and least appealing design. However, as tested, it does offer the most features like powered third row windows, navigation, a rear DVD player and a remote starter. The exterior is equally anonymous looking even with the “Blacktop” appearance package.
The Dodge was the most powerful vehicle here, packing 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque from a 3.6-liter V6. But even with a 16-hp advantage, it doesn’t feel any more powerful than the Sienna. It is also the thirstiest with official fuel economy ratings pegged at 17 MPG in the city and 25 MPG on the highway. During our mostly city-based test course we were able to match the EPA rating with an average of 17 MPG.
Ride comfort is acceptable in the Grand Caravan and it does a good job isolating passengers from road noise, but finding a comfortable position in the driver’s seat can be tricky.
We like the large center screen while using the rearview camera, but the rearview camera is positioned so that it can be difficult to see. At that price, Dodge includes manually adjusted three-zone climate control, so you need to fiddle with several knobs to adjust the cabin temperature.
The Grand Caravan truly is the most flexible of the vans tested here, but not the most comfortable or efficient. If hauling stuff is as important as hauling people, this is your van. Otherwise, the other two are probably a better fit.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $31,905
- ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6 283 hp, 260 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: Six-Speed Automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 17.0 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 83.3 cu. Ft.