Suburban Dad: The Man-Van Debate

2008dodgecaravan0705

Our colleagues over at Mother Proof raise an interesting theory: That it’s men who most want minivans, not moms, and they even go so far as to suggest that minivans are really designed for dads, not moms.

It’s an interesting theory; automakers have said for almost the entirety of the minivan’s quarter-century life that they were intended for “soccer moms” — suburban mothers who have to play chauffeur for the kids to soccer practice, to the mall, to hell and back. Sara Lacey at Mother Proof argues that, instead, the big seats, long reaches to the dash for the controls and large size of the vehicle all suggest that automakers really had dads in mind.

That could be why, as a Suburban Dad, I find myself one of the last holdouts in favor of minivans.

I know plenty of suburban moms (my wife included) who are pretty much done with minivans. They see them as clunky and outdated — this generation’s version of the station wagon I grew up with. I’ve long been happy with the layout of minivans, and especially with how they work with kids. There’s plenty of room to stretch out (something that damn station wagon never had), they offer plenty of cargo room and they’re pretty darn comfortable on those long-haul trips to Florida and elsewhere.

Are minivans really man-vans? Maybe, but as more and more suburban women become convinced that they need to go, you can watch as we minivan-loving dads get dragged along into the future, unwillingly.

By Suburban Dad | July 6, 2007 | Comments (14)
Tags: Pop Culture

Comments 

I thought the big seller for the minivan was the sliding side doors? I for one really appreciate the sliding doors in tight parking situations and so does my wife. The large cargo area, seven passenger capacity and the good fuel mileage is appreciated over the large SUV to boot.

Roger M.

I agree. I talked my wife into getting a minivan. Last year we had THREE minivans. They are the most useful car around.

Infosaur

Yeah mini-VAN's aren't so MINI anymore. Park an Oddesey next to a first year Caravan, WOW.

But sliding doors? I kinda DO wish they'd migrate to other vehicles. The only Coupe/Convertable to have them was the Kaiser-Darren (1950's). The original Neon concept had them for a sedan (1989-ish?). But the only non-van to have them is Mazda's little urban transport (name escapes me).

I know that there are some safty/structural hurdles but its a better investment in R&D than cupholders.

Troy

Ok I'm guilty. I actually convinced my wife to buy a minivan. it was wonderful but, our family changed and we no longer needed it. During the ownership period it served well. Plenty of room, cargo space and some nifty DVD features for the kid.

I agree with the above posters. Sliding doors on vehicles other than vans would be great! Imagine how many less door dings we'd all have! Easier entry/exit and easier to load cargo. I hope some manufacturers read cars.com.

Big Old Andy

I agree wholeheartedly with the premise. I want a mini-van but have been unable to convince my wife of same. I believe many women do not want to be labeled as "soccer moms" and are attracted to the toughness implied by large SUVs more so than many men. I know a number of slightly-built women who love the feeling of power they get from driving a huge vehicle. At 6'4" and 300 lbs. however, I find less appeal to having my vehicle also be a behemoth.
I, on the other hand, recognize that these vans are like Swiss Army Knives. First off, they can carry 4'x8'sheets of drywall, plywood, etc., which many short-bed pickups can't even do easily. At the same time, people who need to move stuff never call their friends with mini-vans; they call the guys with trucks. Secondly, these things are comfortable, with a chair-like driving position, plenty of legroom, and are less tiresome to drive. Thirdly, they are much better at carrying seven adults in reasonable comfort (ever ride in the third row of a Suburban?). Man, I want one of these!

hario

the issue w/ minivans was the image -- as the suv culture emerged, minivans didn't adapt in NA to the 'macho' image of driving a suv. i'm a fan of minivans super practical, spacious, good gas mileage and reasonable towing capacity. while i don't have a family - i don't know why parents would want to drive a less spacious, poor ergonomics, inefficient space layout and less fuel efficient vehicle for their family (unless there is a massive boat involved). may want to re-evaluate your priorities if your vanity is that important that you're willing to give up those family-friendly features for a 'not-a-soccer-mom/dad-and-we-make-a-lot-of-money-to-blow on-gas' image for a primary family transport vehicle.

see the euro ford s-max for family-friendly sportiness in a family hauler.

rp

I concur. We no longer have a mini van because my wife wanted and SUV. my mini van of choice? The Chevy Astro. It never got good write ups but it had more room than most mini vans and got very good gas mileage (for its size).

PsychoBueller

We are on our second Dodge Grand caravan now and we will definitely be getting another one when our lease expires. There is simply no more useful and convenient vehicle on the market. It's perfect for kids, does great with Home Depot runs, gets good economy, and is very comfortable for long hauls. The power sliding doors and power liftgate are features I will never be without again. I think the SUV image thing is over. People see them for what they are now that gas is over $3.00/gallon. As a man I never hesitate to drive our van.

m4rketsense

I've always been a big fan of minivans and our family has had one ever since the kids showed up (about 10 years ago). We've had a Chrysler, Pontiac Montana and a Mazda MPV. We recently picked up another Chrysler after my wife and I debated whether or not to move to an SUV. After looking at the newer crossovers that have 3 rows of seats, we still found that the minivan was a better overall package. There is no other vehicle that provides the size, seating capacity, and convenience of a minivan. Now that two back rows of seats can be folded into the floor, the flexibility is amazing.

Tim

Agreed. Unless one actually needs to go off-road, minivans are among the most powerful vehicles around, when "power" is defined as the ability to get what you want done DONE. We've got a grand caravan with fold-in-the-floor seating, and have found it to be a lifesaver for carting kids, supplies, furniture, and all of our friends' stuff wherever it needs carted.

Donald

Before we bought our mini-van, I had my wife go and test drive the SUVs. She hated them after test driving a few so we bought the mini-van. I thought she got the SUV out of the system, but after 4 years she wanted a Toyota Highlander instead. I didn't want to get rid of the van, so I have been carpooling with it for about 4 years now. The guys that I carpool with love it because they can spread out and take a nap during our 1.5 hour (each way) commute.

The funny thing is that my wife is really a soccer mom. She is my girl's team manager so you would think she would drive the mini-van everyday. I guess this is really a case of want winning over need.

Since the first day I saw them, I wanted a Pontiac Trans Sport. Looks like the space shuttle without wings! At the ripe old age of 20, I bought a used 3-year-old in 1992. I enjoyed every minute I drove it. It never left me stranded. Sadly, I sold it in 2000 at 192,000 miles. Man, I miss that thing. I could carry a lot of people, a lot of crap, or anything inbetween. I haven't seen a minivan that has the same impact that the Trans Sport had on me.

And, yes. I would like to get a minivan, more than my wife, but we also need something that can pull our 18-foot bowrider. Still looking.

Mark

The simple solution for having the interior of a minivan and still be able to haul boats or trailers is simple, move up to a full size van

ManVan

I don't understand why the crossover SUVs that are built on car platforms like the Pilot or the Highlander don't try sliding doors.

The Mazda-3 looks like a regular hatchback so I'm sure they can make an SUV-looking vehicle with those doors. I think it would be a great selling feature (although the Uplander doesn't look very good which is surprising considering their trucks/SUVs are great).

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