If you have a family, are living on a budget, and looking to buy something other than a large sedan or SUV to satisfy your transportation needs, why not check out the best minivan for the money? It’s no surprise why minivans continue to be popular with families: they’re practical, comfortable, spacious, and offer a wide variety of standard and optional features. Some are like living rooms on wheels, complete with dual-entertainment screens, iPod connections, mini-coolers, and more.

The 2010 crop of minivans includes 8 models, according to EPA fuel economy classification. Of these, a clear winner emerges in the value equation – and several others – according to various automotive experts. Here, then, is our choice for the Best Minivan for the Money:

Honda Odyssey

With seating capacity for up to 8 passengers, the front-wheel drive 2010 Honda Odyssey, available in four models (LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring), delivers what many auto experts consider to be the best combination of performance, interior versatility, and high quality overall of any vehicle in its class. In addition, its extensive list of standard safety and convenience features is very impressive.

Pricewise, Odyssey’s manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) starts at $26,805 for LX to $40,755 for Touring, about $2,000 more than the 2010 Toyota Sienna (note that Sienna is all-new in 2011 and is the only minivan with available all-wheel drive). But the best minivan for the money is also about how it feels driving and riding in the minivan. To that end, reviewers agree that Odyssey is one of the best-driving minivans on the market. Car and Driver opines: “The best minivan to drive, the Odyssey offers a smooth powertrain, handsome styling, and Honda build quality.”

Automobile Magazine comments: “Honda Odyssey remains king…it drives more like a luxury sedan than a big van. It’s quiet and rides smoothly as a limo.”

As for interior features, Car and Driver goes on to say: “The cabin is nicely appointed, and the van can be had with just about anything a family could ever want, from decadent stuff like a DVD entertainment system and a leather-lined cabin to minivan-crucial items such as a 115-volt power outlet and a conversation mirror to watch the kids in back.”

Seats are comfortable and supportive, second-row bucket seats have generous headroom and legroom, and a surprising amount of cargo can be stowed in the deep well behind the 3rd-row seat. Consumer Guide remarks: “Some mainstream minivan buyers might be put off by Odyssey’s taut ride and by the daunting array of buttons and switches on top-line versions. Still, this minivan is a Best Buy for its blend of power, road manners, and versatility.”

Odyssey is fuel-efficient as well, achieving an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway (EX-L and Touring), and 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway (LX and EX).

Need more convincing as to this pick for Best Minivan for the Money? Kelley Blue Book named Odyssey one of its “2010 Top Family Cars,” saying “The most premium-like minivan on the market was also our editors’ top pick in a recent segment comparison test, thanks to its ability to package versatility and amenities in a vehicle that is both comfortable and involving to drive.”

Edmunds gives Honda Odyssey a Top Recommended nod, commenting: “With its agile handling, conveniently flat-folding third-row seat and excellent crash test scores, the Odyssey is a great all-around performer that also manages to be fun to drive.”

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