Minivan or three-row CUV? My take after driving the long-term Pacifica
As a new dad, I occasionally get questions from fellow dads and dads-to-be about what car is best for a growing family. Three-row crossovers like the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent are often the first to get thrown around. “Those are great choices,” I’d say. “But have you considered a minivan?” That suggestion is usually met with a mix of skepticism and disgust. I once belonged to the “never a minivan” camp, too, so I get it. But that was before I drove the Chrysler Pacifica. And after living with our long-term 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited for a few months now, I can honestly say I’m not opposed to the idea of being a minivan dad.
Here are seven reasons why I’d pick the Pacifica over a three-row crossover.
Sliding Doors: They’re Just So Handy
Having a wide opening to the rear seats is incredibly useful when you’re trying to install a car seat, and the Pacifica’s dual sliding doors offer two easy ways to access the rear cabin. They’re also lifesavers when you’re parked in a tight spot that would otherwise limit how much you could open a hinged door.
Easy Access to the Third Row
Although eight-passenger seating with a removable second-row center seat is available, the Pacifica comes standard with a seven-passenger capacity and two middle captain’s chairs. Granted, some three-row crossovers can be had with captain’s chairs, too, but having a wide aisle between them combined with the ingress and egress benefits of the sliding doors makes the minivan hard to beat when it comes to third-row access.
Stow ’n Go Seats
By far, the Pacifica’s most useful feature has been its Stow ’n Go seats, which fold both rows of seats flat beneath the floor. Need to help a friend move? Drop all the rear seats to gain a cavernous 140.5 cubic feet of cargo room. Need a flat surface to change a diaper? Simply fold one of the captain’s chairs down for a makeshift changing table.
Carlike Ride and Handling
When the Chrysler Pacifica first came out, its surprisingly buttoned-down driving dynamics shocked many of the judges in our Car of the Year program. Since then, the Honda Odyssey has arrived on the scene offering similarly good road manners, but the Pacifica is still the minivan to beat. It even bested the Camaro of crossovers, the Chevrolet Blazer, to win our tournament-style March Mayhem comparison test.
A Slick Infotainment System
There are some fantastic infotainment systems out there these days, but I’m particularly fond of our Pacifica’s 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen system. The display is sharp and responds quickly to inputs, and it’s easy to navigate the various menus. Some of the functions, like the camera and some climate control buttons, are only accessible through the touchscreen, but you get used to them after a while. Whenever I’m reviewing a vehicle’s infotainment system, the Pacifica’s is one of the benchmarks I measure it against.
Rear entertainment is another feature commonly available on large crossovers and other minivans. I think the Pacifica just does it better. With two flip-up screens embedded in the backs of the front bucket seats, each second-row passenger can have their own personal entertainment experience, whether they want to plug in an Xbox or stream content from their (compatible) mobile device using MirrorLink. If you’re sitting in the back of a rear-entertainment-equipped Pacifica, you should never be bored. But if you do get tired of binging Paw Patrol, you can always challenge your neighbor to one of the system’s built-in road trip games.
Stow ’n Vac
Having an onboard vacuum cleaner has been helpful at times, but it’s not a feature I couldn’t live without. Still, you won’t find a vacuum offered on any three-row crossovers. Even the Honda Odyssey, which started the trend, doesn’t have a better vacuum. Unlike the Odyssey’s HondaVAC, which locates the hose in the cargo area, the available Stow ’n Vac system is conveniently placed closer to the middle of the vehicle, just behind the passenger-side second-row seat. From here, the hose can reach the front seats as well as the back (though it’s easier with the hose extension that stores in the rear).