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A minivan (American English), people carrier (British English),[1] MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) or MUV (multi-utility vehicle) is a vehicle classification describing a high-roof vehicle with a flexible interior layout. Smaller sizes are mini MPV and compact MPV classifications.[2]

The minivan combines a high-roof, five-door one- or two-box hatchback body configuration with a mid-size platform, engine and mechanicals; car-like handling and fuel economy; unibody construction; front-wheel or all-wheel drive and greater height than sedan or station wagon counterparts. The design offers higher h-point seating, two or three rows of seating, easy passenger and cargo access with sliding or wide-opening rear doors and large rear hatch, and a re-configurable interior volume with seats that recline, slide, tumble, fold flat or allow easy removal—enabling users to reprioritize passenger and cargo volumes.


In North America, the term minivan derives from comparison to traditional full-size vans, including the Ford E-Series, Dodge Ram Van, and the Chevrolet Van. Full-size vans derived their underpinnings upon full-size pickup trucks, while the first generation of minivans sold in North America derived from either compact pickup trucks and/or passenger cars.[3]


Predecessors include the 1936 Stout Scarab, which featured a removable table and second row seats that turn 180 degrees to face the rear.[4][5] The DKW Schnellaster, manufactured from 1949 to 1962 was one of the first vehicles to feature the characteristics of modern minivans.[6] In 1950, the Volkswagen Type 2 adapted a bus-shaped body to the compact Volkswagen Beetle. When Volkswagen introduced a sliding side door on their van in 1968, it then had the prominent features that would later come to define a minivan: compact length, three rows of forward-facing seats, station wagon-style top-hinged tailgate/liftgate, sliding side door, passenger car base. Fiat built a similar vehicle, the 1956 Multipla based on the Fiat 600 with the same rear engine, cab forward layout.

In 1972, designers at Ford Motor Company developed the Ford Carousel prototype as a variant of the upcoming redesign of the 1975 Ford E-Series. To better fit a van into a typical 7-foot (213 cm) tall American garage door opening, the Carousel was designed with a lower (6-feet tall) roofline and trim similar to a station wagon and a personal luxury car; rather than a cargo carrier, Carousel was intended a family vehicle. The vehicle was never produced, due to the mid-1970s fuel crisis and company financial difficulties. Nearly a decade later, the concept was revisited by designers and produced in somewhat different form as the Ford Aerostar.

In the late 1970s Chrysler began a six-year development program to design "a small affordable van that looked and handled more like a car".[7] The automaker introduced the first American-market minivans in 1983, the front-wheel-drive 1984 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.[7]

The Renault Espace began development in the 1970s as a project of Chrysler UK.[8] The project reached French manufacturer Matra, who brought the idea to Renault, introducing the Espace in 1984.


North America[edit]

For the 1984 model year, the front-wheel-drive Chrysler minivans were introduced. Two months prior to sales of the Chrysler models, Toyota launched a boxy mid-engined, rear-wheel drive vehicle capable of seating seven passengers called the Van Wagon based on the LiteAce.[9] Ford and General Motors followed by introducing minivans of their own (the 1985 Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari and 1986 Ford Aerostar), both with "conventional" rear-wheel drive.[10][11]

The term minivan came into use largely in comparison to size to full-size vans; at six feet tall or lower, 1980s minivans were intended to fit inside a typical garage door opening.[10] In 1984, The New York Times described minivans "the hot cars coming out of Detroit,"[12] noting that "analysts say the mini-van has created an entirely new market, one that may well overshadow the... station wagon."[12] By the end of the 1980s, demand for minivans as family vehicles had largely superseded full-size station wagons in the United States.[13]

During the 1990s, the minivan segment underwent several major changes. Largely in response to the 1987 extended-wheelbase ("Grand") Chrysler minivans, minivans sold in North America began to grow in size. Following the introduction of the Ford Aerostar Eddie Bauer (1988), Chrysler Town & Country (1990), and Oldsmobile Silhouette (1990), minivans saw the increased availability of convenience and luxury features. While imported from Japan, the 1989-1998 Mazda MPV was the first Japanese-brand minivan developed specifically for North America (with a European-style hinged rear door instead of a sliding door).

During the 1990s, following its demand by customers, manufacturers began to adopt the form factor of the Chrysler minivans, with nearly all minivans transitioning to front-wheel drive; while General Motors would continue production of the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari, Ford replaced the Aerostar with the front-wheel drive Ford Windstar and the Mercury Villager. In 1996, Chrysler introduced the full-size minivan with dual sliding doors (introduced by Nissan in 1982 on the Stanza Wagon compact MPV). After importing minivans from Japan with limited success during the 1980s, Toyota and Nissan introduced minivans developed and manufactured in North America (the Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest). In 1999, the Honda Odyssey was redesigned and enlarged, adopting twin sliding doors and a standard V6 engine; in a redesign, the Mazda MPV adopted the Chrysler form factor, with the Kia Sedona becoming the first Korean-brand minivan sold in North America.

In 2000, minivans reached their highest sales (as of 2018), with 1.4 million units sold.[14] During the 2000s, SUVs competed more closely with minivans for buyers of family-oriented vehicles. After a 20-year production run with relatively few changes, the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari was discontinued in 2005, with GM exiting the segment entirely in 2009. After struggling to compete with front-wheel drive minivans, Ford exited the segment in 2007 to concentrate on full-size CUVs. As part of its 2008 redesign, Chrysler ended production of its short-wheelbase minivans (a design not sold by Japanese-brand competitors). Automotive journalist Dan Neil wrote that minivans signal "that the driver is older and spoken for—off the reproductive market, so to speak. In a culture where women spend billions to create the illusion of youth, it's no wonder minivans have been fighting a market headwind" and at the same time summarized his experience driving a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country Limited "as strange and perverse as it may seem—and it does—middle-aged men tooling around in minivans (like me) are damn sexy."[15]

For 2009, Volkswagen introduced the Volkswagen Routan, a rebadged Dodge Grand Caravan.

During the 2010s, the North American minivan segment underwent further transition. In 2013, sales of the segment reached approximately 500,000 (one-third of its 2000 peak).[14] After having struggled in the 1990s and early 2000s with the EuroVan, Volkswagen sought a more conventional design for North America, rebranding the Dodge Grand Caravan as the VW Routan. Introduced in 2009, the Routan was produced through 2013. In 2010, Ford began imports of the Transit Connect Wagon (rebadged versions of the Tourneo Connect LAV), sized similar to the standard-length Ford Aerostar; in 2014, a seven-passenger version was introduced. In 2016, Mercedes-Benz introduced the Metris, a renamed Vito, the Metris is the first rear-wheel drive minivan since the Chevrolet Astro. In 2017, Nissan exited the minivan segment, ending sales of the Quest; in 2018, Mazda ended minivan sales in North America (doing so in 2015 in the United States).

By 2016, a journalist with The New York Times wrote that minivans had become "uncool at any speed."[12]

Current models[edit]

Manufacturer Model(s) Production years Platform Notes
Chrysler Chrysler Pacifica 2017-present Chrysler RU replaces Chrysler Town & Country

First hybrid-electric minivan (2017)

Dodge Grand Caravan 1987-present Chrysler RT
Ford Ford Transit Connect 2010-present (NA) Ford Global C Ford Tourneo Connect with 3-row seating imported from Spain
Honda Honda Odyssey 1995-present Honda RL6
Kia Kia Sedona 2002-present Kia YP rebadged version of Kia Carnival
Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Metris 2016-present Mercedes-Benz W447 rebadged version of Mercedes-Benz Vito/V-Class for North America

First rear-wheel drive minivan (since 2005 Chevrolet Astro)

Toyota Toyota Sienna 1998-present Toyota K platform (XL30)

Discontinued models[edit]

Manufacturer Model(s) Production years Platform Notes
Chrysler Plymouth Voyager 1984-2000 Chrysler minivans

(S, AS, NS, RS, RT)

renamed Chrysler Voyager from 2001–2003
Dodge Caravan 1984–2007 short-wheelbase configuration
Chrysler Town & Country 1989–2016
Volkswagen Routan 2009–2014 rebranded version of Dodge Grand Caravan
Ford Ford Aerostar 1986–1997 VN1
Ford Windstar 1995–2003 D186, V
Ford Freestar

Mercury Monterey

2004–2007 V
Mercury Villager

Nissan Quest

1992–2002 VX54 Ford-produced vans developed in Ford-Nissan joint venture
General Motors Chevrolet Astro

GMC Safari

1985–2005 M-body
Chevrolet Lumina APV

Pontiac Trans Sport

Oldsmobile Silhouette

1990–1996 GMT199 APV/"Dustbuster" vans
Chevrolet Venture

Pontiac Trans Sport/Montana

Oldsmobile Silhouette

1997–2005 GMT200
Buick Terraza

Chevrolet Uplander

Pontiac Montana SV6

Saturn Relay

2005–2009 GMT201 Buick Terraza is rebadged Oldsmobile Silhouette

Buick and Saturn minivans were sold from 2005–2007

Honda Isuzu Oasis 1996–1999 rebadged 1995–1998 Honda Odyssey
Kia Hyundai Entourage 2006–2009 rebadged Kia Sedona (Kia Carnival) for North American sale
Mazda Mazda MPV 1989–2006 LV, LW first Japanese-produced minivan developed specifically for North American sale
Mazda5 2004–2018 BK, CW sold as Mazda Premacy in Japan

withdrawn from United States in 2015

Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Van/Wagon 1987–1990 LHD Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon imported from Japan
Nissan Nissan Van/Wagon 1987–1990 Vanette C22 LHD Nissan Largo imported from Japan
Nissan Quest 2004–2017 FF-L, D Developed/produced exclusively by Nissan
Toyota Toyota Van/Wagon 1983–1989 R20/R30 LHD Toyota TownAce imported from Japan

First and only 4x4 minivan sold in North America (1987–1989)

Toyota Previa 1991–1997 XR10/XR20 Sold as Toyota Estima in Japan
Volkswagen Volkswagen Vanagon 1979–1991 Type 2 (T3) Last air-cooled VW in North America (1985); last rear-engine VW in North America (1991)
Volkswagen Eurovan 1992–2003 T4


In 1979, Volkswagen replaced the long-running Type 2 with the Volkswagen Transporter T3/Caravelle (VW Vanagon in North America). While retaining the rear-engine form factor of the Type 2, the Caravelle was an all-new design. In 1984, the Renault Espace was introduced. Designed and manufactured by Matra, the Espace was a front-wheel drive van with four front-hinged doors. Although slow-selling at first, the Espace would go on to become one of the most successful vans of the segment. Beginning in the late 1980s, American-market minivans (the Chrysler Voyager and Ford Aerostar) were exported to Europe.

During the 1990s, the production of minivans continued, with the extensive use of badge engineering and joint ventures between manufacturers. In 1994, under the Sevel joint venture, Citroën, Peugeot, Fiat and Lancia introduced competitors to the Espace based on a single platform. For 1995, Ford and Volkswagen introduced their own joint venture (leading to the Ford Galaxy, Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra). Imports of American-market minivans continued, with the Chrysler Voyager, limited imports of the Ford Windstar, and the Opel/Vauxhall Sintra produced entirely in the United States alongside its Chevrolet Venture counterpart.

Current models include the Mercedes-Benz Vito,[16] Volkswagen Sharan, the Chrysler Voyager (now rebranded as Lancia), the Kia Carnival, and the SsangYong Rodius.

Compact and mini MPVs[edit]

Volkswagen Touran, a compact MPV

Towards the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, the major European manufactures launched the new compact MPV and mini MPV classes, that represent minivans with significantly smaller dimensions than the larger minivans and in most cases developed on the platforms of compact and supermini cars, respectively.

The Renault Mégane Scénic, launched in 1996, featured design and mechanics largely similar to the Renault Mégane compact car. It was followed by other models, including the Fiat Multipla, in 1998, the Citroën Xsara Picasso, in 1999, based on the Citroën Xsara compact car, the Opel Zafira, also in 1999, and later by the Ford Focus C-Max, in 2003, based on the Ford Focus compact car, the Volkswagen Touran, also in 2003, or the Mercedes-Benz Vaneo, in 2002.

Japanese and South Korean manufacturers launched versions of compact MPVs, with Toyota introducing the Corolla Verso, in 1997, based on the Toyota Corolla compact car, followed by Nissan with the Almera Tino, in 2000, based on the Nissan Almera compact car, Mazda, with the Ford Focus C-Max-related Mazda Premacy, in 1999, or Honda, with the FR-V, in 2004, while Mitsubishi had been producing its own version of a compact MPV, the Space Runner, since 1991. In South Korea, Daewoo launched the Daewoo Tacuma, in 2000, while Kia launched the Carens, in 1999.

In the 2000s, the mini MPV class debuted, including the Opel Meriva, Nissan Note, Fiat Idea, Renault Modus and Fiat 500L. Writing for The Telegraph in 2004, noted automotive journalist James May wrote that mini-MPV's "are invariably based on an existing hatchback, but offer more headroom, extra 'oddments storage'... and perhaps a touch of sliding seat tomfoolery in the back.... what we are seeing with the mini-MPV is the re-invention of the hatchback, nothing more. It's a good idea, and long overdue, but that's all it is."[17]

Japanese and South Korean manufactures marketed the Daihatsu Gran Move, Mitsubishi Space Star, Hyundai Matrix, and Kia Soul.

Leisure activity vehicle[edit]

Matra Rancho, one of the first LAVs
Renault Kangoo, a current LAV

A leisure activity vehicle (abbreviated LAV) is a small van or minivan; the segment is popularized primarily in Europe.[18] One of the first LAVs was the 1977 Matra Rancho (among the first crossover SUVs and a precursor to the Renault Espace), with European manufacturers expanding the segment in the late 1990s, following the introduction of the Citroen Berlingo and Renault Kangoo.

Leisure activity vehicles are typically derived from supermini or subcompact car platforms, differing from mini MPVs in body design. To maximize interior space, LAVs are taller in height with a vertically-oriented liftgate (or the side-hinged doors of a cargo van); the body typically features a more vertically-oriented windshield and longer hood/bonnet. Marketed as an alternative to sedan-derived small family cars, LAVs have seating with a lower H-point than MPVs or minivans, offering two (or three) rows of seating.

Though sharing underpinnings with superminis, subcompacts, and mini MPVs, the use of an extended wheelbase can make leisure activity vehicles longer than the vehicles they are derived from. For example, the Fiat Doblò is one of the longest LAVs with a total length of 4,255 mm (167.5 in), versus the 4,050 mm (159.4 in) of the Opel Meriva (a mini MPV) and the 4,030 mm (158.7 in) of the Peugeot 206 SW (a supermini).

List of leisure activity vehicles (similar vehicles are grouped together):

Model(s) Production years Platform
BYD M3/BYD Shang/BYD T3 2014-present Nissan B platform
Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner (Ranch) 1996–2008 Citroën Xsara/Peugeot 306 platform
Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner (Ranch) II 2008-present PSA PF2 platform
Renault Kangoo I/Nissan Kubistar 1997–2007 Renault Clio I platform
Renault Kangoo II/Mercedes-Benz Citan 2007-present Nissan C platform
Nissan Evalia 2009-present Nissan B platform
Toyota Fun Cargo/Yaris Verso Toyota NBC platform (XP20)
Fiat Doblò Mk1 2000–2009 Fiat Punto II platform
Fiat Doblò Mk2/Opel/Vauxhall Combo Tour D 2009-present Fiat-GM SCCS
Sevel LAV Fiat-GM SCCS
Ford Tourneo Courier 2014-present Ford B3 platform
Ford Tourneo Connect 2003–2013 Ford C170 platform
Ford Tourneo Connect 2012-present Ford Global C platform
Foton Midi 2008-2014 Foton Motor
Volkswagen Caddy Life 2003-present Volkswagen Group A5 (PQ35) platform (Volkswagen Touran)
Škoda Roomster/Praktik 2006–2015 Volkswagen Group A4 (PQ34) platform/Volkswagen Group A04 (PQ24) platform
Dacia Dokker 2013-present Dacia Lodgy


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