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Before you buy a used minivan, consider these fuel-saving alternatives

2014 Mazda5
The 2014 Mazda5

Though the minivan often comes to mind when shoppers want maximum space and flexibility for their used-car dollar, a few alternatives to this go-to hauler of Canadian families and pets are worth consideration.

This is especially true if a great big Sienna, Odyssey or Grand Caravan might be surplus to your requirements.

After all, minivans are great big vehicles with great big engines, which means they might drink more fuel than you’ll like.

Turns out, you’ve got some worthy options for accessing plenty of room and versatility, and a much smaller fuel bill, depending on what you’re after.

Below are a few family-friendly alternatives to a larger (and thirstier) minivan that will help tackle your people and cargo-hauling needs, with an eye for fuel efficiency.

Toyota Prius V

 2015 Toyota Prius V
2015 Toyota Prius V

Model Years:

2012+

The nutshell:

Did you know that the Toyota Prius is available in several different variations? Toyota’s best-selling hybrid is even available as the Prius V, with the V representing versatility.

Running the same fuel-saving hybrid tech as other Prius models, the Prius V has self-recharging batteries that drive a hybrid gas electric powertrain, turning in a tiny fuel bill. But Prius V’s big story is its body: It’s larger and more voluminous than smaller Prius models, with heaps of rear-seat legroom and cargo volume like a crossover.

Many shoppers have gravitated to the Prius V for its manoeuvrability, flexibility, and ability to drastically cut down on gas station visits. Plenty of advanced safety feature content is also on board. Prius V is also available as a new vehicle, but will be discontinued after model-year 2019. In any case, few vehicles offer so much room, with such a tiny fuel bill.

Before you buy:

Before buying a used Prius V, confirm that the performance of the air conditioner and the finish of all interior parts and pieces is satisfactory. A full assessment by a Toyota technician is also advised.

Chevrolet Orlando

 the 2015 Chevrolet Orlando
the 2015 Chevrolet Orlando

Model years:

2012-2014

The nutshell:

Remember the Chevrolet Orlando? No problem if you don’t: this unique family hauler only had a short life on sale, before being discontinued. In that time, Orlando found homes in plenty of Canadian driveways, primarily because it was well priced, offered up a comfortable and surprisingly-quiet ride, and combined a thrifty four-cylinder engine with three seating rows, the rearmost of which were actually usable by adults.

Orlando packed over 1,590 litres of cargo space, and seats could be flipped, folded, and rejiggered to switch things from ‘compact soccer-hauler’ to ‘mini cargo van’ in seconds.

A proven ECOTEC four-cylinder engine was under the hood, serving up decent performance and even better fuel economy. You can even find Orlando with a six-speed manual transmission, if you like.

Many owners say Orlando makes an efficient family tourer, and numerous retirees report excellent mileage, plenty of room for long trips, and space for the grandkids or four-legged pets, as needed.

Before you buy:

Contact a local GM dealership to confirm that a potentially-dangerous power steering defect has been repaired by a safety recall (if applicable to the model you’re considering), and triple-check all windows, locks, latches, and keyfobs.

Mazda5

Model years:

2012-2017

The nutshell:

By all measures, the Mazda 5 is a mini-minivan, though the Japanese automaker insists that this now-discontinued model never sought to fit into any specific vehicle category.

Look for three rows of flexible seating, dual sliding doors, and four-cylinder power all around.

Notably, this model ran a 2.5-litre Mazda MZR engine, noted in other applications for pleasing fuel mileage and solid reliability. Driving enthusiasts can look for a sport package, and manual transmission.

Very flexible seating and the only sliding doors in this compilation mean the Mazda5 is perfectly suited to a family with young passengers, and the need for a vehicle that’s manoeuvrable, easy on fuel, and ready to grow with them.

Some owners even say the Mazda5 makes a great work van, shuttle, or cargo van for a small business.

Or, use it as a flexible long-haul tourer to explore new locales. Premium audio systems, lighting, and heated leather could all be specified, to help make comfy work of longer trips.

Before you buy:

Check for signs of sneaky rust and damaged paint, have a technician check the wheel bearings for signs of potentially-dangerous wear, and run all folding and sliding seating provisions through their paces, being on the lookout for damaged or non-functional latches or release levers.

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