Ultimate Minivan Shootout: Real-World Gas Mileage

The minivans for the Shootout were tested on a mileage course with a variety of driving conditions.

Minivans aren't known for their frugalness at the pump. They're heavy, have the aerodynamics of a refrigerator, and they put carrying people and utility over fuel efficiency. It's clear after a 175-mile test route that one automaker put its focus on fuel efficiency.

The Honda Odyssey bested the group of six minivans with a tally of 25.9 mpg, according to the van's trip computer. That result surprised no one because the EPA highway ratings for the Odyssey are higher than the nearest competitor by a whopping 3 mpg, which is a lot in the minivan segment. 

CarEPA mileage
(city/highway and combined)
Trip computer mpg
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite 19/28 (22) 25.9
2011 Volkswagen Routan SE 17/25 (20) 25.1
2011 Chrysler Town & Country Limited 17/25 (20) 23.2
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew 17/25 (20) 22.7
2011 Toyota Sienna XLE 16/22 (18) 22.0
2011 Nissan Quest SL 19/24 (21) 21.4

What caught our eye was the Volkswagen Routan's performance compared with its Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan compadres, which share powertrains but were separated by roughly 2 mpg in the final readings. The Routan led the three at 25.1 mpg while the Town & Country measured 23.2 mpg and the Grand Caravan 22.7 mpg.

Volkswagen officials were also surprised by the results when we asked if there's any reason the VW should perform better than the Chrysler and Dodge, considering they share EPA ratings of 17/25 mpg. VW said that weight differences from the more feature-laden Dodge and Chrysler could have affected mileage.

Despite the Sienna's low EPA rating — helped by its class-exclusive all-wheel drive — the Sienna stayed above the bottom with a 22 mpg final reading, matching its highway rating. Our Sienna had the optional V-6 and all-wheel drive, the least fuel-efficient combo in the lineup. Base models have a standard four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive that gets a 3 mpg bump in combined ratings.

Route & Methodology

We drove all six minivans from a location near the Atlanta airport to Macon, Ga., and back, mostly on two-lane highways and large four- and six-lane interstates. Six times during the drive we stopped to swap drivers, accounting for varying styles (and weight) of each driver. The route averaged 174.9 miles from the six odometer readings.

Before we departed, all tire pressures were set to manufacturer recommendations, and eco modes that changed driving characteristics for optimal fuel economy were turned off. Windows and sunroofs were closed, and air conditioning was kept on.

© Cars.com 05/20/2011