Let’s face it: Parenthood can often feel like being in a street brawl where only the strong survive. And if you wanna be the last mom standing (or dad, of course), you’re gonna need a strong contender among kid-and-cargo carriers to help you fight the good fight. A minivan is a no-brainer for this challenge, but with a child’s safety being a parent’s paramount concern, which one is the undisputed champ when it comes to accommodating car seats?
Last week, we pitted two of the most popular minivans on the market — the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica and the 2018 Honda Odyssey — against one another to determine which could stand up better to our Car Seat Checks. While both are eminently capable in safely and practically shuttling your brood from place to place, the Odyssey was the winner by decision in that bout. This week, Honda’s family hauler will defend its title against Toyota’s so-called “swagger wagon,” the 2018 Sienna.
Last updated for 2017, the Sienna got a 30-horsepower bump from its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, channeled through a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Toyota’s popular minivan boasts abundant cabin space and accessible lower Latch anchors — but could its tricky top tether anchors be its undoing in the squared circle? Read on to find out.
For our Car Seat Check of the Odyssey, we tested an eight-passenger model with a three-position second row, and it fit three car seats across — a huge advantage for larger families or anyone who might be ferrying around other people’s kids along with their own. And with tons of room for car seats in both rows, as well as accessible Latch anchors throughout, the Odyssey positions itself as the one to beat.
We tested a model equipped with second-row captain’s chairs; a removable middle position is available. Installation of our infant, rear-facing convertible and booster seats in the second row was a cinch and required little extra maneuvering beyond removing the head restraints for the booster. The third-row forward-facing seat also went in easily thanks to well-positioned Latch anchors and adjustable seat cushions, while access to the third row is excellent thanks to sliding-and-folding second-row seats. Meanwhile, hard-to-find top tether anchors in the second row, along with potentially confusing third-row lower Latch anchors and floppy seat belt buckle bases in the third, resulted in some penalties.
This was a fight to the finish, as judges’ scorecards showed both minivans with five A’s and four B’s. The Odyssey edged out the Sienna in its second-row Latch score, while the Sienna accommodated our booster seat in the second row a little better. Likewise, the Odyssey’s third-row Latch scored higher than the Sienna’s, though the Sienna’s third-row access was superior.
So do we have a draw? Nope. The fact that the Odyssey was able to fit three car seats across its second row proves to be the winning punch it needed to land. Of course, as we previously mentioned, the Sienna does offer a removable middle position, but unfortunately for the Toyota, its rival climbed into the ring this much more prepared. (We’ll be happy to stage a rematch if we test the Sienna equipped with that middle seat.)
Ladies and gentlemen, the winner and still Car Seat Check champ … the Honda Oooodyseyyyy!
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