Big Families Find Choices are Limited for Full-Size Vans

Update 11/13/2012: Today, Ford unveiled its seven-passenger Transit Connect Wagon; this article has been updated to reflect the new information.

What do you do when your family gets really big—bigger than a minivan can handle? With more than five kids, your vehicle choices narrow so quickly your head will spin. There are options for families of eight or more, though they can be counted on just one hand. However, there's something to be said for only having a few choices because it limits analysis paralysis.

Ford is adding a player to the large-van market with its 2014 Transit Connect Wagon (photo above), which was first announced in September. The tall van features minivan-like sliding side doors and room for seven passengers. The Transit Connect Wagon looks more modern than Ford's current large family hauler, the E-Series Wagon, and will use a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder or an optional turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. Ford expects it to get an EPA-rating of at least 30 mpg on the highway. The Transit will debut at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show and is scheduled to be on lots in late 2013.

If your growing family is bursting the seams of your minivan or three-row crossover, there are several options on dealership lots now. Be warned: Most manufacturers don't offer a plethora of nice-to-have features on these large family vans, but like having privacy while in the bathroom, you knew you'd lose that once you started having a family.

2013 Chevrolet Express

Chevrolet's Express looks more like a traditional passenger van than some of its competitors. Its stablemate, the GMC Savana, offers the same engine choices and seating capacities.

  • Starting price: $29,965, including a $995 destination charge 
  • Seats: Eight, 12 or 15 seats 
  • Engines: Three gas-powered V-8 choices and a turbo-diesel V-8 
  • Family friendliness: A backup camera is available. OnStar is standard on the Express, though you'll have to pay for a subscription after the first six months. In the front row, there are three cupholders and an open bin in the console for all the stuff that comes with family life.

2013 Ford E-Series

Until the arrival of the Ford Transit, large families can check out Ford's E-Series vans.

  • Starting price: $29,925, including a $995 destination charge. 
  • Seats: Eight, 12 or 15; captain's chairs are optional, but they reduce the number of seats. 
  • Engines: Three gas-powered V-8 choices or a gas-powered V-10 
  • Family friendliness: A backup camera is available. There are two bins and three cupholders in the front row and retractable cupholders for the rear seats. Ford also includes a front-row shelf that will "accommodate a clipboard." Though intended to appeal to business owners, I can see how you'd need a clipboard when hauling a large family.

2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Although it's from Mercedes, the Sprinter doesn't add much in the way of luxury to the interior of this large family hauler. There's no wood trim or brushed nickel to be found in this van.

  • Starting price: $41,315, including a $995 destination charge 
  • Seats: Up to 12 
  • Engine: Turbo-diesel V-6 
  • Family friendliness: The Sprinter has a standard passenger-side sliding door. Hallelujah! On some of the Sprinter's competitors, sliding doors are optional. The Sprinter also boasts the lowest step-in height in its class, according to Mercedes. Like its competitors, a backup camera is optional.

2013 Nissan NV Passenger

If you're looking for the antithesis of the traditional van, the NV's bold styling could appeal to you. It incorporates the square design cues of Nissan's Cube and Quest minivan. It's definitely distinctive.

  • Starting price: $32,985, including a $995 destination charge 
  • Seats: Up to 12 
  • Engines: V-6 or V-8 
  • Family friendliness: Like the Sprinter, the NV has a standard passenger-side sliding door. The NV also has power outlets throughout the cabin, which could be a big hit with the older kids in a large family. There are eight cupholders in the base NV and 10 in higher trims. A backup camera is available.

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