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Title: Minivan  
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A minivan is a type of van designed for personal use. Minivans are typically either two-box or one box designs for maximum interior volume – and are taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon.

Worldwide, minivans are also marketed as multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), people-carriers, people-movers, or multi-utility vehicles (MUVs).


Stout Scarab from the 1930s
DKW Schnellaster (1949-1962), with front-wheel drive, transverse engine, flat floor, and multi-configurable seating
Volkswagen Type 2 1964, Generation I

Antecedents for the minivan may include the 1936 Stout Scarab, which featured a removable table and second row seats that turn 180 degrees to face the rear – a feature that Chrysler marketed as Swivel 'n Go.[1][2]

The DKW Schnellaster, manufactured from 1949 to 1962 was a small monospace (or one-box) design featuring its front wheels set forward of the passenger cabin, a short, sloping aerodynamic hood, front-wheel drive, transverse engine, flat load floor throughout with flexible seating and cargo accommodations – the key design ingredients that describe the modern minivan configuration popularized in such notable examples as the Renault Espace and Chrysler Voyager/Caravan minivans.[3]

Other predecessors of minivans were compact vans. In 1950, the Volkswagen Type 2 adapted a bus-shaped body to the compact Volkswagen Beetle. It placed the driver above the front wheels, sitting behind a flat nose, with the engine mounted at the rear. This approach to the driver being placed on top of the front axle is known as a "cab over". The two hinged side doors were opposite to the driver's side, with optional doors on the driver's side. Fiat built a similar vehicle, Multipla based on the Fiat 600 with the same "cab over" engine and door layout. Japanese and American manufacturers responded with compact vans since the 1960s. Usually based on front-engined compact cars with a FMR layout, the engine was mounted behind or under the front seat with a flat, vertical nose. Examples include the Ford Econoline, Chevrolet Van, Suzuki Carry, Toyota Hiace, and Subaru Sambar. When Volkswagen introduced a sliding side door on their van in 1968, it then had all the features that would later come to define a minivan: compact length, three rows of forward-facing seats, station wagon-style top-hinged tailgate/liftgate, sliding side door, passenger car base.

As the U.S. vehicles such as the Econoline evolved into larger full-sized vans, the term minivan came to use in North America, when Toyota and Chrysler launched their respective smaller minivan products for the 1984 model year. The Toyota Van and Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Voyager featured very different structural designs: the Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Voyager had a FF layout and unibody construction, while the Toyota Van Wagon had a FMR layout and was built on a body-on-frame chassis. The Chevrolet Astro / GMC Safari and Ford Aerostar were introduced for the 1985 model year with FR layout.

A European minivan design was conceived in the late 1970s by the Rootes Group in partnership with the French automaker Matra (which was also affiliated with Simca, the former French subsidiary of the Chrysler Corporation, sold in 1977 to the PSA Group). The Matra design was originally intended to be sold as a Talbot and be a replacement for the Talbot-Matra Rancho. Early prototypes were designed to use Simca parts and a grille like the Simca 1307. Matra took their idea to Peugeot who thought it too expensive and risky so the project was then presented to Renault, becoming the Renault Espace introduced in 1984. The Renault had traditional hinged car doors on both sides. Chrysler had also been developing a minivan based on the Chrysler K platform, releasing the Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Voyager earlier than the Espace, in 1983.



MPVs are usually between 1.6–1.8 metres (5 ft 3 in–5 ft 11 in) tall, which is around 20 cm (8 in) taller than a sedan, hatchback, or station wagon. The engine is mounted very close to the front edge of the van, and its elements are grouped higher than in other vehicle types to minimize front overhang length. The rear overhang may be short as in a hatchback or long like in station wagons, changing the cargo area vs seat balance – the first option is more common in smaller minivans and the second in large minivans.


Seats are located higher than in lower cars with a higher H-point, giving passengers a more upright posture and providing more legroom.

Larger MPVs usually feature three rows of seats, with two or three seats each: 2-3-2, 2-2-3 or 2-3-3 (front to rear) are the most common seating configurations. According to Consumer Reports, the most common large size configuration for the 2011 model year was 7 passenger seating. Smaller minivans tend to have two rows of seats, with a traditional 2-3 configuration. There are some exceptions, like the Honda FR-V, Suzuki Ertiga, Fiat Multipla, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, and the Mazda5 which are six seaters (3-3 in the first two cases and 2-2-2 in the last three). On U.S. models, Chrysler copied the short bench, long bench format of their full-size vans for most of their minivan models. Other U.S. manufacturers followed suit. This setup allowed easy access to the rear from the right side (these vans were initially all 3-door models). However, it led to tight seating in the second row. Captain's chairs (the format typically used on U.S. conversion vans) soon began to gain popularity, beginning with top trim models and working its way down. Today, with 4-door models completely replacing 3-doors, the Captain chair setup has become the standard format, with many models no longer offering two bench seats.

MPVs may have seats, either benches or individual seats, that are designed to be relocated, removed, folded partially (on-floor) or folded completely under-floor – allowing variable seating capacity and cargo room.

Chassis and drivetrain

In contrast to vans, sport utility vehicles (SUV), and many crossover SUVs, most current MPVs are front-wheel drive. This configuration allows a flat inner floor, due to the absence of the driveshaft hump. With rear seats removed, the cargo area in large minivans can hold a 4x8 ft sheet of drywall or plywood flat. Four-wheel drive was also introduced to minivans in North America with the Toyota Van Wagon 4WD and the Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro. Full-time all-wheel drive was introduced to North American minivans in 1990 with the Ford Aerostar's E-4WD option, followed in 1991 by the Toyota Previa's All-Trac, and in 1992 on models made by Chrysler.

Most modern MPVs feature unibody architecture, which offers superior crashworthiness and a more comfortable ride than a body-on-frame chassis, and is typically lighter. The discontinued Chevrolet Astro / GMC Safari were the last subframe-mounted rear-wheel drive minivans.

In the United States, in order to be governed by more lenient safety and emissions regulations, minivans are classified as light trucks. Unlike their European counterparts, manual transmissions have disappeared due to lack of* 1996: Chrysorthenches new genus, conifer-associated plutellid moths (Yponomeutoidea, Lepidoptera) in New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand journal of zoology, 23(1): 33-59. doi:10.1080/03014223.1996.9518064  

Nomenclatural acts

  • Date of publication: 1996

New names (6)

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