Review and photos by Justin Pritchard, additional photos by Autos.ca staff
Originally published September 24, 2013
Crossover SUVs have largely killed off the once-popular minivan as Canada’s go-to family hauler – though thousands of shoppers still prefer the overwhelming value of a minivan when it comes to moving their families, their things and their pets around on the cheap.
Car-like maneuverability and ride quality, huge space for the money and plenty of flexibility make the minivan a machine that’s ready for virtually anything.
Hyundai Entourage. Click image to enlarge
Today, numerous affordable used minivan options exist – so here’s a look at a few of the most popular in terms of what owners say they love, and the commonly reported problems they say you should watch out for.
2007 to 2008 Hyundai Entourage / Kia Sedona
The Draw: Low resale values and relatively solid reliability make the Entourage / Sedona twins worth a check as your next used family hauler. Owners tend to rave about crash-test scores, spaciousness, ride comfort and an abundance of handy storage compartments. Low pricing and a lengthy warranty were cited as key purchase factors, too. These weren’t the most flashy or well-equipped minivans on the road, but for many owners, the space, price and warranty were unbeatable.
What to Check: Common complaints include interior squeaks and rattles, cheap or broken interior trim pieces and heavy fuel consumption. Check all interior electronics, including the climate control, power windows, remote key fobs, locks and stereo. A quick look underneath can reveal hidden problems like leaks or rust, and a mechanic can check the state of various suspension components relatively quickly, too.
Useful: A well-maintained minivan will tend to show itself that way. Is the candidate you’re looking at clean, free of damaged paint or panels and looking well taken care of? Or is it dented, rusty, scraped up and full of dried-up french fries and Cheerios ground into the carpeting? Scrutinize the minivan’s paint for signs of damage, and note any excessive wear on the seats, on door sills and in the cargo area.
2005 to 2009 Chevrolet Uplander / Pontiac Montana SV6
The Draw: Affordable pricing, plenty of room and a great warranty helped sales of these cloned GM minivans until they were axed after 2009 to focus on crossover sales. Look for available all-wheel drive designated by the ‘Versatrak’ badge, as well as two available V6 engines with 200 or 240 horsepower. All models were automatic and both short and long wheelbase units could be had. Smooth ride quality and performance are commonly praised, as is generous feature content for the money. The huge cabin also saw Uplander / Montana owners benefit from pickup-truck-like levels of utility.
What to Check: Powertrain issues seem more sensor-related than mechanical in nature. Have a GM technician ‘scan’ the vehicle ahead of your purchase for signs of hidden trouble. If the engine and transmission’s service requirements have been adhered to, if it runs smoothly and if no check engine lights are illuminated, you’re well on your way.
Any model with a ‘slipping’ automatic transmission should be avoided – though you’re not likely to come across one. Have a mechanic inspect the underside for signs of leaks or worn-out suspension parts. Confirm operation of the air conditioning system, front and rear.
Useful: Have a mechanic ‘scan’ the minivan you’re considering for signs of hidden electronics issues. Sometimes, a bad sensor or module will cause a check engine light to illuminate – but sometimes it won’t. A computer scan can help ensure there are no hidden surprises waiting for you.