Can a Minivan Be Stylish?

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A minivan is many things to the families who own one. It's a school bus, playroom, weekend road warrior and living room on wheels — but can it also be stylish? Before you answer no, consider the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S.

The automaker working to turn its image from humdrum to hip with the "Imported from Detroit" slogan and star-studded advertising is also trying to inject some mojo into its minivan. Chrysler gives the Town & Country S a dose of attitude inside and out with a sport suspension, black chrome grille, a black step pad, 17-inch aluminum wheels with black pockets and blacked-out headlights. Inside, it's more black-on-black: leather seats with gray contrast stitching, glossy black plastic trim on the instrument panel and steering wheel, a black headliner and a black center console.

I'm a fan of the Town & Country, but fully admit a minivan is one of the most style-cramping vehicles you can buy. What type of moms and dads would go for a blinged-out, blacked-out version?

"The Town & Country S will appeal to a younger demographic that needs the functionality of a minivan, but who wants some modern style in their vehicle," Chrysler communications spokesperson Patrick Hespen said.

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The Town & Country S follows other brands that tried to make minivans cool like the Toyota Sienna SE trim level and it's unique black grille and darkly hued wheels, and Honda's somewhat bizarre rock 'n' roll fantasy TV commercial for its Odyssey when it debuted a new look a few years back.

It makes sense to try to attract a new audience to the class, since sales as a whole are down. Through April, shoppers bought 164,583 new minivans, according to Automotive News. That's down 7.4% versus 2012, and it represents a pretty significant decline in minivan popularity. A year ago, one in 26 new cars sold was a minivan; today it's one in 30. Shoppers clearly prefer large, three-row crossovers, which outsold minivans by more than 3 to 2 through April.

The 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S was introduced last year at the L.A. Auto Show (where else?!) and goes on sale this summer. It will slot between the Touring and Touring-L models in the lineup and start at $32,990, including a $995 destination charge.

With the sportier S versions of its 200 and 300 sedans, Chrysler upped the stylishness of its lineup; can it do the same with the Town & Country S or are "style" and "minivan" mutually exclusive?

Related
2013 Chrysler Town and Country S at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show
2013 Chrysler Town & Country Review
More Family News

Comments 

Hey, wait a minute, we have a minivan in our fleet for VIPs. What do you mean it isn't stylish?

Is it safe and easy to drive is the most important question.

Anonymous Coward

Put a Hemi in it.

DL

Personally, I think minivans have a better chance competing against SUVs/crossovers in the pamper-your-occupants department, rather than the style department. I don't know how many Sienna SE's they have sold so far, but I have seen very few on the road. Most in New England are LE and XLE trims.

The practicality of a minivan requires its shape to remain bulbous. IMO minivans will never appear stylish (exterior styling). However, interior quality and styling should improve. So far, all minivans have old-school, fuddy-looking interior trim. THAT's where they can attract potential new buyers. If someone made a big fat minivan and let Audi make the interior, I'm willing to spend good money on it.

I was looking for an alternative to the luxury SUV when I purchased the '11 Sienna Ltd AWD. I was sorely disappointed that the build quality did not match its $45k-plus sticker price. The interior looks like it belongs in a cheap 20-year-old car, and the plastic-y fake wood just added a slap in the face. I bought it anyway because there are no other AWD minivans on the market (new vehicles) and SUVs are just absurdly inconvenient compared to the convenience of the sliding doors and gigantic trunk space of the minivan.

It's like asking if a bib can be stylish. Sure, it can be, but it's still meant for spit up.
Don't get me wrong, I have a 2002 Odyssey that I absolutely love, but a minivan's functionality and utility will trump everything else. My brother bought a Buick Encore when he had his third kid and its a relatively stylish and roomy car but not nearly as versatile as my van.
The main reason minivan sales have declined, I'd argue, is fuel efficiency. Few shoppers are as thrift-conscious as the minivan demographic and this is the one segment that hasn't capitalized on fuel efficiency gains, which is limited by what you can do with its size. A 2013 Odyssey gets 21 mpg, compared to 19 mpg for my 2002. The Encore by comparison gets 28 mpg. If in the market for a new van, I'd seriously consider a cross over despite how much I love my bib.

Card13

Duffer,

An Odyssey vs an Encore in fuel efficiency? Minivans will be mostly cross-shopped with mid or full size crossovers that have a third row, not a subcompact tall wagon like the Encore. The fuel efficiency of minivans compares favorably to vehicles of similar size. The crossovers with the most impressive fuel economy are the compact ones (eg Escape, CX-5, CRV, etc) that don't offer enough space for minivan families.

Abrodo

Minivans sold in America, maybe. Minivans sold abroad, YES: Honda Stepwagn, Toyota Previa, Opel Zafira, Citroen C3 Picasso, and a few others.

Camaro Greg

I actually rented a T&C last month, in Florida, and was blown away by the upgrades and luxury. I had owned mini vans while I raised my 3 sons and was all to happy to dump them once they were in high school. The T & C changed my opinion.

Mike S @ctmeche

I think any vehicle can be stylish, but it's the stigma associated with the class that steers people away. I'm in my young 30s, and have kids like many of my peers... but it's amazing how often I hear "I will never get a minivan" from people that couldn't even tell an Odyssey from a Sienna. And it's usually women more than men who steadfastly refuse. They do it on principle, not styling. For those people, sliding doors = minivan, and it doesn't matter what it looks like.
I often wonder what would happen if car companies sold the same vehicle with a choice of sliding rear doors or regular hinged rear doors.

I personally love the 2012+ Mazda5 styling (as well as size and price) although it's a little too smiley on the front and the rear pillars still too thick, despite being glass covered now. But that styling could easily scale up.

Visual beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but proper "style" always seems to include an element of impracticality by definition.

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