NEWS

Which Minivan Has the Easiest-to-Access Third Row?

15Honda_Odyssey_ES_45.jpg 2015 Honda Odyssey; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — Anyone who buys a minivan expects to use the third row, at least occasionally. But the peanut-gallery seats can be a squeeze to get into, whether it’s through an aisle between the second-row chairs or a walk-in feature past the sliding doors. Which minivan makes it easiest for passengers? We graded the access space for each contender in Cars.com’s Ultimate Minivan Challenge.

Related: What’s the Ultimate Minivan?

Here are the results in alphabetical order, with measurements rounded to the nearest inch.

TownCountry_TRA_ES.jpg 2015 Chrysler Town & Country; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Pull a strap, and the Chrysler Town & Country’s Stow ‘n Go seats tumble forward to create a walk-in space (43 inches high by 15 inches wide) that’s nearly as large as the best-in-group Toyota Sienna. But the Town & Country’s center aisle is just 11 inches wide, and its bulky dual overhead consoles limit the height to a modest 43 inches — the shortest in the test. Watch that forehead, folks.

GrandCaravan_TRA_ES.jpg 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

The Dodge Grand Caravan’s tumbling Stow ‘n Go seats create the same excellent walk-in space as the Town & Country (43 inches by 15 inches), but it also suffers the same narrow 11-inch aisle to access rear seating. The Dodge has one small advantage versus its Chrysler twin: Both vehicles have overhead consoles with two entertainment screens, but our Grand Caravan’s single, flow-through console was slimmer than the Town & Country’s two separate consoles. That frees up 2 more inches of height (45 inches versus 43), but it’s not enough to move the Grand Caravan’s aisle grade past a D.

Odyssey_TRA_ES.jpg 2015 Honda Odyssey; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Most minivans have larger walk-in spaces than center aisles, but the Honda Odyssey does the opposite. Slide the second-row seats to their farthest forward walk-in position and the 42-inch-tall opening is a scant 10 inches wide. Hope you like squeezing: That’s 40 percent tighter than the Toyota Sienna’s mammoth entryway. Fortunately, the Odyssey’s center aisle is the opposite. Stow the removable middle seat, and the opening is a bit taller (46 inches) and a much wider 17 inches. Ignore the walk-in feature on those captain’s chairs. The aisle is a breeze.

Sedona_TRA_ES.jpg 2015 Kia Sedona; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Our feature-packed Kia Sedona’s optional lounge seats deliver outrageous comfort, but practicality takes a backseat. Lesser Sedona trims have slimmer seats with better third-row access, but these lounge chairs have more bulk than an NFL linebacker. There’s limited sliding range for third-row access, with just 43 inches of height and 11 inches of walk-in width — second worst to the Odyssey. Aisle space is even tighter, as the bulky seats leave 46 inches of aisle height but a worst-in-group 8 inches of width. Pick your poison; it’s a squeeze either way.

Sienna_TRA_ES.jpg 2015 Toyota Sienna; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Thanks to a lot of forward travel in the collapsible second-row captain’s chairs, the Toyota Sienna has a best-in-group 16 inches of walk-in width with 44 inches of height; it’s a cakewalk to get out. The aisle between Toyota’s seats? Not so much. It’s just 11 inches by 46 inches — only the second-worst size in this group, believe it or not, but a big 6 inches narrower than the best-in-group Odyssey.

How We Measured

All the minivans in our test had second-row captain’s chairs with a center aisle, though we needed to stow the Odyssey’s removable middle seat to create one. None came equipped with fixed bench seats or floor-mounted center consoles for the second row.

To measure aisle space:

  • We folded up the armrests on each captain’s chair and positioned them in a reasonable sitting position, even with each other.
  • We then measured the width of the aisle between the captain’s chairs at its narrowest point, which you’d have to squeeze through to reach the third row.
  • We also measured the aisle’s height, from the floor to its lowest point in the ceiling over the aisle, again because that’s what you’d have to duck under.

To measure walk-in space:

  • We slid, tumbled or collapsed the second-row seats forward, depending on the vehicle, to access third-row seating. Most vans have a release strap or lever to enable this.
  • We then measured the width of the walk-in space at its narrowest point, typically between some part of the tumbled or folded seat and the minivan’s C-pillar.
  • Finally, we measured the walk-in height at its shortest point, which was typically the opening of the door itself.

Two minivans — the Sedona and Honda Odyssey — had second-row seats that could adjust sideways. In both vans, we moved the seats to their outermost position to measure aisle space, then back to their innermost position to measure walk-in space. That’s because we suspect anyone who prefers one method or the other to get to the third row will adjust the chairs to create the most room for that route.

How We Graded

In each category, we compared the space for each minivan against the most space in the group for its respective category (walk-in space or aisle space). For example, the center aisle for the Sienna is 46 inches by 11 inches, or 506 square inches (46 times 11). Compare that to the roomiest center aisle in the whole group, which is the Odyssey’s 46 inches by 17 inches (782 square inches). That means the Sienna’s center aisle is 64.7 percent as good as the Odyssey’s aisle (506 out of a possible 782).

We graded on a simple academic letter scale, so A is 90 to 100 percent, B is 80 to 89.9 percent and so on. Thus, the Toyota’s 64.7 percent translates to a D for the center aisle.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Latest expert reviews