2012 Dodge Grand Caravan
Starting MSRP $20,995–$29,995
I love getting some bang for my buck and that's why I really like the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan.
Yes, it's a minivan — the original, in fact — so it's not the sexiest machine on the road, but the 2012 Grand Caravan is a decent-looking, budget-friendly family hauler that offers quite a few family-friendly features for the money.
With that in mind, if you have a family or just haul a bunch of people around regularly for the fun of it, the Grand Caravan is worth a look.
The 2012 Grand Caravan is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine delivering 283 horsepower. Once you get rolling, the engine does fine, though driving never ceases to feel a bit stiff and unresponsive. Since this is a car that makes its living on family practicality, a lackluster driving experience is almost to be expected. If you're looking for some serious fun, try the R/T trim — R/T means it's road and track tuned with a sport suspension; seriously, don't snicker — and all its sporty goodness.
The seven-seater was overhauled for the 2011 model year, so this model year's changes are minor and come mostly in the form of trim level changes. The most significant of these is the introduction of a base model that is $3,000 less than last year's base. Of the five available 2012 Grand Caravan trims to choose from, the entry-level American Value Package starts at $21,990, including a $995 destination charge, and the top-of-the-line R/T starts at $30,990.
I tested the middle-of-the-line SXT trim that has a $27,490 starting price. With the addition of the Customer Preferred Package, flex-fuel capability and a DVD entertainment system, the as-tested price was $29,970.
I wouldn't go so far as to say this is the coolest-looking family car around, but for a minivan, it definitely holds its own. The Grand Caravan's low stance makes it seem more wagon-like and less van-like, which slightly ups its cool factor. The grille also sports Dodge's signature crosshair look; that's the same grille as the Dodge Charger, which practically makes you on honorary member of the "Dukes of Hazzard" in your rockin' minivan.
Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, though you can upgrade to 17-inchers, which come standard on the masculine R/T (daddy bragging rights?). Heated side mirrors are also standard on the SXT. My car came with the optional power sliding doors, a power liftgate and roof rails and crossbars. Fog lights and rain-sensing wipers are also available.
The Stow 'n Go seats that are synonymous with the Grand Caravan name are easier to use than I could have imagined. With one touch of a lever and then a follow-up push, the second-row seats fold down into the floor. The third row folds flat with the floor. With all seats stowed, cargo volume is almost 144 cubic feet, and with all seats up, cargo volume behind the third row is a useful 33 cubic feet.
All trim levels of the 2012 Grand Caravan are powered by a best-in-class 283-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that teams with a six-speed automatic transmission and comes in front-wheel drive only. Towing capacity is 3,600 pounds, which is also best-in-class.
The Grand Caravan runs on regular gas and gets an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg city/highway, though my test car was flex-fuel capable, so E85 ethanol is also palatable power for this baby. When using E85, the Grand Caravan gets 12/18 mpg. Fuel Economizer mode, which adjusts engine timing and transmission shift points to optimize fuel economy and get you even better mileage, helped me achieve an average of about 21 mpg using regular gas during my week with the Grand Caravan.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
While the interior is equipped with all kinds of useful standard equipment, it's not an elegant-looking cabin. The black plastic and silver trim that cover the dash and center stack look cheap. But the Grand Caravan's plethora of interior passenger and cargo space as well as the multitude of convenient standard features come at such a reasonable price that I didn't feel there was much license to complain.
There are nine cupholders throughout the cabin and plenty of other storage possibilities, including a clever bin at foot-level between the driver and front passenger seats plus several more cubbies and bins in the second and third rows. With all of these storage bins, there is plenty of room for you and the kids to stow all kinds of personal items such as lip gloss, coffee, smartphones or a collection of rocks and dead bugs a la my son. There are also dual glove boxes for you to stash anything important out of sight.
The Grand Caravan seats seven, with captain's chairs in the second row and a three-seat bench in the third. Seating throughout has cloth upholstery (though black leather with red stitching is offered on the R/T trim) and is plenty comfortable and easy to clean.
The third row is split 60/40 and capable of becoming tailgate seating. It flips toward the open tailgate to create the perfect perch for you and a friend as you're waiting for the game to start. While this is likely a feature geared toward dads, my kids found it thrilling.
My test car came with the available 9-inch entertainment screen that drops from the ceiling. Other features like heated front seats and steering wheel, sunshades for the second and third rows, remote start and touch-screen navigation are also available.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, which means it received the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It received an overall crash-test rating of four stars out of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It earned four stars of five in front and rollover crash tests and five stars in side crash tests.
It comes standard with front-wheel drive, automatic headlamps, an electronic stability system with traction control, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, active front head restraints and seven airbags, including side curtain airbags for all three rows and a driver's knee airbag.
My test car came equipped with the optional backup camera as well as the power adjustable pedals. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection systems are also available as is a parking assist feature.
Thanks to the pliability of the cloth upholstery, installing child-safety seats in the Grand Caravan was a breeze. It has three sets of lower Latch anchors that are easy to use. The set of Latch anchors in the third row sit on the inside edge of the bench seat's larger section, leaving the smaller section to be put down if need be and putting the child-safety seat in the middle, which makes for better DVD viewing should you have that feature. Learn more about the Dodge Grand Caravan's Car Seat Check.
Even with a rear-facing infant seat installed in the second row's captain's chair, the front passenger has plenty of legroom.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan here.
People Who Viewed This Car Also Viewed
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Dodge Grand Caravan
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.