Minivans vs. Wagons vs. New SUVs



We're in the market to replace our '02 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have become disturbed by the rollover and crash statistics, gas mileage, etc. of SUVs and want to find something that is first and foremost safe as a family vehicle.

Our son is 14 months and still RF in a Britax Marathon. I'll leave him RF until he's too big to be RF. We may have a second child in the near future and would have to contend with multiple seats and friends of our children in whatever we buy. We also have our dog in the car (80 lbs.) regularly and tow a trailer on occasion so a regular sedan isn't really an option. We currently have a pet gate bolted into the frame of the car to keep the dog from becoming a furry missle and to keep the stroller out of the main part of the vehicle.

We are considering wagons: Passat, Volvo, Saab and Subaru; minivans: Odyssey and 04 Sienna; and maybe a car based SUV like an MDX, Volvo or Pilot. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anywhere to compare these different classes against each other. I know there is quite a range in price, etc. but I really want to find something we'll love and keep for more than a couple of years and would be willing to pay more if it means getting the right vehicle.

I've found a lot of helpful advice, articles and links here (the link to the Pilot article on epinions is actually the only reason it's on my list) but would love any feedback people have on these particular models, especially since some are newer like the Sienna, and Volvo SUV. We've always sworn we wouldn't get a mini-van :) but from what I see here, they come highly recommended from a safety, gas mileage, etc. perspective.

Any comments or help in narrowing the choices down would be appreciated!


CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
For safety-

I think every model you mentioned would be a good choice for safety. I don't think you would be disappointed with any of them overall, it will be a tough choice:)

Newer "crossover" SUVs like the Volvo SUV, Pilot and MDX are much safer than most truck based models. Even some new truck based models have improved rollover protection.

If you haven't seen our guide to safe, family vehicles, here it is:

For kid hauling convenience, it's hard to top a minivan. Assuming the Sienna gets top crash test results, it is my current favorite. If you're willing to spend the $$$, you can even get AWD on it. I'd be very happy with any of the ones you mentioned, though I don't know much about the Saab wagon in terms of safety.

Good luck shopping!


Senior Community Member
having two kiddos and up until last year, a 120 lb dog (RIP :(), i would say minivan is THE most convenient kid hauler. the volvo wagon is my newest interest and i'm looking into it...provided i will be able to afford a new car in the next couple of years (hopehopehope LOL).


Thanks for the advice. Sold on Volvo Safety.

Thanks for the advice. We bought a Volvo wagon today and sprang for the integrated boosters and 3rd row child seats. We deicided that down the road we will at least have some sort of proper restraint in case we have someone else's kids who show up without any sort of booster/car seat. I have to say, the folks at Volvo really know how to sell their safety features for all passengers, especially children.

Other than a quick sneak over to VW to drive the Passat Wagon, we didn't even make it to the other dealers on our list! The integrated boosters/3rd set of seats sold us on the Volvo (and a very good deal on a loaner car)--otherwise, the VW safety features were almost comparable to the Volvo at a much lower price.

With just one child, we just aren't ready for the jump to the minivan but I'm sure it's on the horizon--maybe when it's time to replace our other sedan!

FYI, for anyone looking for a very safe SUV, if you can afford it, the new Volvo is incredibly stable from a rollover perspective and chock full of safety and child friendly (innovative) features. I don't think I would have considered another from a safety perspective after test driving one. Lots of room for up to seven passengers and pretty easy to get to the 3rd row. Despite the steep price tag, there were over 100 people on the waiting list at our dealership. Kinda like the '04 Toyota Sienna frenzy!

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