Much-maligned minivans really aren't so bad

Honda minivan

One of the vehicles in my driveway this week is the 2011 Honda Odyssey minivan.

Now you might not think that, as a car guy, I would have a lot of good things to say about minivans.

You would be mostly wrong.

Would I want to drive a minivan every day? Nope.

They just aren't much fun to drive and don't make the sort of lifestyle statement I want to make.

However, they do offer more utility than, well, a sport-utility vehicle. And generally, they accommodate more passengers comfortably.

I sure don't need the passenger space ... usually, but occasionally I do need the utility.

Because the other vehicle in my driveway is a Nissan Juke that I put nearly 300 miles on, slogging from my home in Greenville, S.C., to Atlanta and back, I am driving the Odyssey for just about everything else this week.

Despite the fact the Odyssey I have is the top-of-the-line Touring Elite with every bell and whistle a minivan pilot might want, it doesn't make me feel very macho.

I usually get comments about what I'm driving from the guys at my gym; I am this week as well, but they aren't of a particularly positive nature.

But here's the thing: When you need what a minivan is designed to do, nothing else does the job quite as well.

Whether it's the Toyota Sienna that I drove on a road trip to South Florida last December or the Dodge Grand Caravan that I used to haul materials home for my last major home-remodeling project, minivans are workhorses.

The Sienna trip involved five adults and our luggage for four days. Four of us occupied the four captains chairs in the first two rows and a fifth person was usually asleep across the third-row seat.

The deep well in the very back, engineered to house the third-row seat when folded flat into the floor, increased the cargo room substantially.

We had more space than we needed.

With the capacity to swallow a four-by-eight sheet of plywood with enough room to still close the rear liftgate, the Dodge Grand Caravan was an unexpected delight for a remodeling project that involved hauling full sheets of wainscoting as well as a bathroom vanity and cabinets.

It didn't even matter that it was raining.

Minivans don't do much for my image, but they certainly make life easier.

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