Most Fuel Efficient Minivans

21 Oct

Gas PumpWith what seems like the ever rising cost of gas, the fuel efficiency of your minivan can play a huge role in the overall cost of ownership.

It should come as no surprise to just about anyone that has seen a minivan, that their styling does not exactly lend itself to high MPG numbers, especially when you look at some of the older vans that bear a close resemblance to a brick.

The hunt for the most fuel efficient minivans can set off in two different directions, ‘Does the age of the van matter?’ and ‘Is one model always better than another?’.

A Comparison of Minivan Age

To dig deeper into how minivan age effects fuel efficiency we picked two popular minivans that we could easily get the MPG numbers for city and highway  going back over 20 years.

The vehicles we picked were the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Honda Odyssey, one domestic vehicle and one imported one, just to keep things balanced.  In this comparison we were just comparing the published fuel economy numbers for city and highway to other years of the same vehicle.  While the table below does allow you to compare the two vehicles for a specific year, that is not the main focus of the comparison right now.

Year Dodge GC City Dodge GC Hwy Honda City Honda Hwy
2013 17 25 18 27
2011 17 25 18 27
2008 17 24 16 23
2005 17 24 17 23
2003 16 23 16 23
2000 15 22 16 23
1998 17 22 19 24
1995 18 22 18 22

 

As you can see, while there is a small difference between more current models and the ones over 10 years old, there is not a huge advantage to be gained by moving to a used minivan that is a couple of years newer.

A Comparison of Minivan Models

So far it looks like age does not play a huge role in determining what our most fuel efficient minivan may be, so lets pick a model year, fix that, and look at all of the different minivan models that were available that year, so see if that makes a difference.

For this part of the comparison we picked the 2011 model year, as that was new enough that we avoided that slight drop in efficiency that we saw after 10 years, but still old enough that there will be plenty of choice in the used van market.

Vehicle City MPG Highway MPG
Chrysler Town & Country 17 25
Dodge Grand Caravan 17 25
Honda Odyssey 18 27
Kia Sedona 18 25
Nissan Quest 19 24
Toyota Sienna 18 24
Volkswagen Routan 17 25

 

The data once again shows us that no one van is really any better than any of the others, in the table above the Honda may just have the edge, but in the real world it is unlikely that anyone would actually be able to consistently see any difference.

So What are the Most Fuel Efficient Minivans?

The honest answer is that they all are.  While these comparisons show small amounts of differences between models and production years, the greatest variance in any minivan MPG numbers comes from the way it is driven.

Most research suggests that driving style can affect fuel efficiency by between 30 to 35%, far more than the 10% numbers we have seen from vehicle age or model choice, so picking just about any minivan and driving it in a fuel efficient way can make it the most fuel efficient minivan there is.

Tips for Fuel Efficient Driving

Following these points should help you save some gas, they will also have a side effect of saving you some maintenance costs, as fuel efficient driving also puts less strain on the mechanical parts of your van.

  • Accelerate gently – A smooth, gentle acceleration from a stop or slow down uses less fuel.
  • Coast to a stop – If you see a stop light ahead, coasting towards it uses less fuel than racing up to it then breaking heavily.  Also, if you let someone else get to the light first it may have switched to green when you get there saving the need to stop altogether.
  • Open the windows – If you are driving around town, and the weather is nice consider opening the windows rather than running the AC, it reduces load on the engine and improves its efficiency.
  • Turn on the AC – Once you get above about 50mph the drag from the open windows burns more fuel than just turning your AC on.
  • Try to avoid short journeys – Your vans engine is more efficient when it is warm, so try to avoid short journeys where the engine never gets a chance to warm up.  If you do need to make a short trip see if you can combine it with a longer one, and do the short part last, so the engine is already warm when you start and stop it.
  • Turn your van off at stop lights – While a lot of the people trying to really high MPGs recommend this a lot, it is not one of my favourites.  As most vans are auto’s switching them off and on requires a lot of gear changing rather than just pressing in the clutch on a vehicle with a standard transmission, and this seems like a lot of extra wear and tear for a couple of extra MPG’s.

Hopefully that has helped you turn your current minivan into one of the most fuel efficient minivans on the road today.