Minivans are often stigmatised as boring vehicles designed to haul around families, but the stigma is unfair. Yes, a lot of parents drive their kids around in minivans. But that’s because minivans are perfectly designed for the job.
Easy-sliding doors, lots of places to plug in and recharge devices, seating for up to eight people, ample cargo space, dozens of cupholders, and decent fuel economy without sacrificing power — what’s not to love for a family of four, five, or more?
Over the decades, the minivan has been steadily improved, and these days many families see the segment as a two-horse race between the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna, with the new Chrysler Pacifica often in the conversation as well.
Here’s what happens to those vehicles once they enter daily duty: they endure a parade of horribles when it comes to dirt, sand, crud, and spilled goldfish crackers. I owned a 2007 Honda Odyssey and had to go to the car wash for a vacuuming at least twice a month.
For the 2014 model year, Honda addressed minivan owners’ pain by adding a storable, onboard vacuum cleaner as an option. (It adds $US2,500 to the price of the top trim level, bundled with a premium sound system).
We recently reviewed the latest Odyssey. Here’ what we thought of the HondaVac.
It's made by Shop-Vac, and as long as the engine is running, it can run for as long as you want (it will run for about 10 minutes on the battery if the engine is off). Best of all, it has a 16-foot hose, to reach all parts of the minivan.
It isn't a large vacuum, but the Odyssey does have it, while Sienna doesn't (owners can have one installed as an aftermarket option). The new Pacifica also has a factory installed vacuum available, and there's widespread expectation that Toyota will include one with the new Sienna.
I tried to get the Odyssey dirty enough to vacuum, but I didn't succeed. My Prius was kind of dirty, however, so I figured a little cross-brand cleaning would be in order.
Well, yeah. Of course, you can simply buy a portable vacuum for less than $US100 and keep it in the car -- but then you won't able to show off your factory installed HondaVac to envious fellow parents!
If the HondaVac has a drawback, it's that it can mainly be used for modest messes (no liquids, by the way). It doesn't have enough suction to inhale truly major catastrophes. For that, you will need to head to the car wash and get the pros involved.
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