No vehicles seems to say family like minivans. They handle all the needs of a household unit. They provide safety, comfort, cargo space, additional seating, and family-oriented options. For years, Chrysler led the way in minivan style and sales with the Caravan. Today, two new leaders have emerged to take the reins as industry leaders – the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. After researching industry experts Edmunds, Car and Driver, KBB, Motor Trend, and Consumer Reports, we’ve pitted these two family carriages against each other to see who may stand alone as the overall leader.

Powertrain: This is one of the closer calls we’ll come across as both models come standard with a 3.5L V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota’s engine tops out in horsepower, 266 hp to Honda’s 244 hp. Fuel efficiency, however, goes to Honda at 17 mpg city/25 highway as opposed to 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the Sienna. The Sienna boasted a respectable acceleration time, reaching 60 mph in just 8.0 seconds, while the Odyssey took a bit longer at 9.1 seconds. The clincher is the AWD option from the Sienna, something lacking from the Odyssey.

Winner: Toyota Sienna

Braking/Safety/Handling: Both models come standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, and a full complement of airbags. Like the Odyssey, the Sienna adds a rearview camera if you opt for the navigation system, but it’s the crash tests that may tell the full safety picture on these two. The Odyssey scored a perfect five stars across the board for both driver-side and passenger front and rear tests. The Sienna came up one test shy, earning four stars for driver protection on front-end collisions. Both were rated Good by the IIHS, but the Sienna experiences heavy body roll and diminished handling on turns. The Odyssey’s suspension and steering keep it firmly planted to the road in all conditions.

Winner: Honda Odyssey

Cargo/Hauling: As with most minivans today, the second and third-row seats are removable or, at a minimum, fold out of the way to improve cargo space. The Sienna’s second-row center seat move 13 inches closer to the front seats, making it much easier to reach the child seated in that section. It also folds out of the way to improve overall cargo space to 149 cubic feet. The Odyssey can accommodate 91 cubic feet of cargo with the second-row still in place and the easy-to-store third-row seat folded down. The second-row seats are rather cumbersome to remove, but when gone they improve the cargo space to 147 cubes. The ease of maneuverability in the second-row seating for the Sienna, coupled with a luxurious interior, may be the deciding factor in this category.

Winner: Toyota Sienna, by a nose

Comfort/Interior: Either model can be fitted as an eight- or seven-passenger vehicle, making versatility a non-factor. The Odyssey’s eighth-passenger seat, however, is somewhat narrow, basically making it a kids-only seat. On the other hand, when not needed it can be folded into a tray table or removed completely and stored in the in-floor storage area. The Sienna’s cabin may be its strong point. It offers plush seats, even on lower trims, simple-to-use controls, and ample storage space. It also offers a much nicer feel with the plush interior and wood trim.

Winner: Toyota Sienna

Amenities/Options: The options on these two are very similar. Both offer tri-zone climate control, power liftgates, heated front seats, and navigation system. The Sienna goes a bit further with the 10-speaker JBL surround-sound stereo, satellite radio, and power-sliding rear doors. The Odyssey also lacks an iPod integration but does have an auxiliary jack for the stereo. Options for the Honda can drive the price up drastically.

Winner: Toyota Sienna

Value for the $: The MSRP on these two should be fairly close, but it’s not. The Sienna starts off a couple of thousand dollars cheaper at $24,540, compared to the Odyssey MSRP of $26,805. One would figure that the AWD option for the Toyota would drive the MSRP well past Honda, but that too is wrong. The max you’ll pay for a Sienna caps off at $37,865 for the AWD Limited model, whereas the Touring edition of the Odyssey can reach $40,755.

Winner: Many of the researchers have the Odyssey ranked higher than the Sienna. This could be due to the Sienna’s poor handling or an overly soft feel in the brake pedal. Driving experience, after all, should be the biggest factor. Still, the Odyssey in not perfect either. It possesses elevated road noise, a problem which has plagued Honda for some time now, a lesser suspension quality than the Sienna, and the options can actually drive the price up faster than many competitors. Perhaps it’s Honda’s reputation for reliability and economy or perhaps it’s Toyota’s reputation for using low-quality materials in the past. Either way, it looks like the Sienna takes the blue ribbon in almost every category of this race.

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