Minivans are all about practicality. They can look as glitzy or tough as they want, but ultimately big concessions to style are made for the sake of being the best people haulers. That's fine. But get used to getting out of the car if you're going to walk to the back of the van.
The idea of being able to walk from the front to the back of a van has long been marketed as a selling point, like in this VW ad:
Minivans were marketed as cars you could use as living rooms, and of course the appeal of a big room is the ability to walk round in it. But sometimes you need tables and furniture in your big room so your belongings aren't rolling around on the floor. Even if it means losing space to walk around.
I didn't notice the traditional console hump until just now. That's a deal killer for us — coming from a wagon, one of the main benefits of a van is not having to climb over seats when doing our Mongolian Fire Drills (seat-switching) on long trips, or to tend to the kids.
I suspect Ash is in the minority on this issue for a couple reasons. One, if families really wanted to walk from the front of the vehicle to the back, the crossover wouldn't be replacing the minivan as the people mover of choice in the U.S. Secondly, I rode in a lot of minivans in the '90s and I never saw a grownup get up from the front seats and walk to one of us in the back. We were all belted, even in a Plymouth Voyager that only had lap belts.
A Chrysler Town & Country isn't a Winnebago. I understand some people feel the need to readily access a child in one of the second or third-row seats, but our habits of staying buckled up and pulling over if we need to move from our seats has eliminated the need for such a pass-through.
What a big center console does allow is what I've seen in every minivan I've ever been in: the room for tons of crap. Because they're living rooms, minivans need lots of space for coffee cups, phones, bags, whatever. You need a place to put all that stuff more than you need the ability to go break up a fight in the third row while on the move.
Now that almost all minivans are available with eight seats now, we've also lost that second-row pass-through. But because minivans have taken a page from crossovers and made simple levers to get into the third row, that's not such a big deal.
I see what Kia's done with the 2015 Sedona. It's a big crossover up front, but a minivan in back. There's the console shifter and the big armrest with storage, but it's all about the folding seats in back with eight usable seats.
Minivans make so much sense now. If you have a lot of people to move, you should buy one.
Photos: Chrysler, Kia