A minivan (American English), people carrier (British English), 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.
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.
Predecessors include the 1936 Stout Scarab, which featured a removable table and second row seats that turn 180 degrees to face the rear. The DKW Schnellaster, manufactured from 1949 to 1962 was one of the first vehicles to feature the characteristics of modern minivans. 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". The automaker introduced the first American-market minivans in 1983, the front-wheel-drive 1984 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.
DKW Schnellaster (1949-1962), front-wheel drive, flat floor, and reconfigurable seating
Fiat 600 Multipla, 6-passenger "one-box" MPV (1956-1969)
1964 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier, which adapted configuration of VW Transporter
Volkswagen Type 2 "Microbus" from the 1970s
- In Taiwan, the Taiwanese market features the Luxgen M7.
- The Japanese market has had the Mazda Bongo since 1966 and more recently includes the Toyota Alphard, the Toyota Previa, the Nissan Serena, and the Honda Odyssey.
- In South Korea, minivans include the Kia Carnival and SsangYong Rodius. These are both marketed internationally.
- The Buick GL8 is produced and sold since 2000 in China under the Buick brand name by SAIC-GM, the joint-venture of SAIC Motor with General Motors Corporation.
- In Malaysia, MPV's sold by the local companies Proton Holdings and Perodua have been available since 2009 being the Proton Exora and Perodua Alza
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. 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.
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. In 1984, The New York Times described minivans "the hot cars coming out of Detroit," noting that "analysts say the mini-van has created an entirely new market, one that may well overshadow the... station wagon." By the end of the 1980s, demand for minivans as family vehicles had largely superseded full-size station wagons in the United States.
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. 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."
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). 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."
|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 (XL30)|
|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 Windstar||1995–2003||D186, V|
|Mercury Villager||1992–2002||VX54||Ford-produced vans developed in Ford-Nissan joint venture|
|General Motors||Chevrolet Astro
|Chevrolet Lumina APV||1990–1996||GMT199||APV/"Dustbuster" vans|
Pontiac Montana SV6
|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)|
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.
Compact and mini MPVs
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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."
Leisure activity vehicle
A leisure activity vehicle (abbreviated LAV) is a small van or minivan; the segment is popularized primarily in Europe. 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):
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