Let's take a quick look at the 10 top-selling minivans through the first seven months of 1999. They are listed in order of their sales, shown in parentheses:
1. Dodge Caravan (196,079). Available in regular and extended-length models, the front-drive Caravan is as handsome as it is functional. It also boasts dual sliding doors and very car-like ride and handling characteristics. It is available with all-wheel-drive.
2. Ford Windstar (144,325). Redesigned for 1999, this large, roomy front-driver is attractive, comfortable and rigged for silent running. It comes with dual sliders and is the only minivan to earn the federal government's five-star safety rating for both the first- and second-row passengers.
3. Plymouth Voyager (98,323). It's basically a down-market Caravan.
4. Chevy Astro (64,800). This is an aging vehicle that stays near the top of the sales heap because it is the only mini available with rear-drive and all-wheel drive. The rear-drive layout allows it to tow more than its front-drive competitors.
5. Chevrolet Venture (62,713). The Venture is Chevy's version of a front-drive GM van also marketed as the Pontiac Montana and Oldsmobile Silhouette. Available in both regular and extended lengths, the Venture is a well-designed mini that does everything well.
6. Toyota Sienna (57,061). The first Toyota minivan stank. The second, the Previa, was underpowered and overpriced. The third, the Sienna, is a good value and a delightful vehicle.
7. Pontiac Montana (40,785). This is essentially a Chevy Venture with those inspired sport-ute styling cues.
8. Chrysler Town & Country (39,899). Essentially an upmarket Caravan.
9. Honda Odyssey (31,928). Hossack calls this new minivan "terrific," and I wouldn't argue. Honda sells every one it can build.
10. Mercury Villager (28,008). This kissing cousin of the Nissan Quest is quiet, sophisticated business.