The simple joy of driving is something that I may have lost as I've aged. When I was 16, I was just excited to drive. Given the option, I'd probably have chosen something other than the Chevy Suburban or Dodge Caravan that my parents owned, but I was more than happy to take the keys and run with whatever I was given.
It became clear that happiness no longer exists when I swapped test car keys with Managing Editor Jamie Page Deaton, trading my Infiniti M35h for her Toyota Sienna for a few days. There's nothing wrong with the Sienna. It's comfortable, loaded with a number of convenience features and an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Jamie's particular Sienna was even equipped with fog lights, which I thought was a failed attempt to add a dash of sport to the capable family hauler. But what really struck me was how much bigger the Sienna felt than the minivans I remember from the early '90s.
For example, the 1992 Dodge Caravan was 72 inches wide, 66 inches high and 178.1 inches long. By comparison, the current Dodge Grand Caravan is 6.7 inches wider, 1.9 inches taller and 24.7 inches longer. The additional space adds up to a van that's more comfortable and utilitarian, but with an additional 2 feet tacked on, can the Grand Caravan still be considered mini?
The same holds true for Toyota, as the Sienna is supersized compared to its 19-year old ancestor. The current Sienna is 78.1 inches wide, 69.5 inches tall and 200.2 inches long, which makes it basically the same size as the current Grand Caravan. However, the Sienna is descended from a van Toyota called the Previa, and although the Previa wasn't as small as the Caravan was in 1992, it's still smaller than the current Sienna at 70.8 inches wide, 68.7 inches tall and 187 inches long. That means that Toyota's minivan has grown 7.3 inches wider, 0.8 inches taller and 13.2 inches longer as it has evolved in the last 19 years.
Sure, many of us may have also loosened our belts since high school. But since minivans have increased their girth and gas prices have risen, do you think MPVs like the Ford C-Max and Mazda5 have staying power in today's marketplace?