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Consumer Reports Rates The Best Minivans

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Has your family outgrown the "family sedan"? A minivan might be in your future.

Consumer Reports

shows us what to look for.

Minivans are everywhere -- mostly because they make it easy to carry kids, grab groceries and even haul stuff.

Consumer Reports

found several models that it recommends, such as Dodge's Grand Caravan Sport and Chrysler's Town and Country.

Testers said the Caravan's handling is competent, and the ride is quiet. For both vehicles, acceleration is average and their braking is rated above average. They both did pretty well in government crash tests.

Both vehicles feature a 50/50 split third-row bench seat, but it does not fold flat. Predicted reliability for both vehicles is just average. Both are priced in the mid- to upper-$30,000s.

The two vehicles were both edged out by Toyota's Sienna.

Consumer Reports

testers describe the transmission as "smooth and eager." Its interior is quiet. Even though more horsepower was added last year, the Sienna's acceleration is still average.

The Sienna's braking, handling convenience and comfort are all above average. Its two sliding side doors are a plus. Its 50/50 third-row seat can be reclined and folded, but it is cramped.

Consumer Reports

called crash test results for the Sienna "impressive." Its predicted reliability is "above average." The price for the Sienna ranges from the mid- to upper-$20,000s.

Consumer Reports'

top-rated minivan was the Honda Odyssey. The vehicle is powerful, smooth and responsive. Its handling is good, and braking is rated above average. Its traction control is standard, but road noise was noticeable.

The inside of the vehicle is roomy, and its third seat conveniently drops down into the floor. Crash test results for the Odyssey are also impressive, but its predicted reliability is just "average." The base price of the Odyssey is in the mid-$20,000s.

©2002 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rights reserved.