I admit, an old vs. new minivan showdown may not have the same sex appeal as yesterday afternoon’s eye-bending bikini girl photo and lesbian car ad video. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)
Ford is attempting to reinvent the minivan segment, though, which to some of us van shoppers is equally hot, just in a transporting-the-family kind of way. Ford’s entry into this market is curiously similar to the vehicle that started it all: the Plymouth Voyager.
Considering the length of the 2011 Honda Odyssey “minivan” comes within 4 inches of the 1990 Ford Econoline, its safe to say that minvans are no longer mini. With the new Ford C-Max, Ford hopes that, like bikinis, smaller is better.
The homely 1984 Plymouth Voyager was a breakthrough vehicle. Some say it was Chrysler’s most innovative vehicle…ever. Built on a platform derived from the Plymouth Reliant/Dodge Aries, the Voyager effectively combined car-like manners and a van’s cargo capabilities. It could be equipped with five-, six-, seven-, or eight-passenger seating arrangements. Engine choices were an 84-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 114-hp, 2.6-liter four-cylinder (later a 2.5-liter turbo four was available). Gas mileage typically came in at a respectable 18 mpg combined.
The Ford C-Max is 178 inches long on a 109.7 inch wheelbase. The Voyager, to put this in perspective, was 175.9 inches long on a 112-inch wheelbase. Mighty close! Like the Voyager, the C-Max can be had in seven-passenger trim and comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or an available 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine.
Of course, the C-Max has a good 25 years of technology development over the old Voyager, which will surely translate into significantly more power and improved mileage, in addition to some slick technology tricks, including a hands-free liftgate. Whoever has the C-Max’s key fob on their person can simply wave a leg under the rear bumper and trigger sensors that will open the liftgate. Definitely a handy feature for anyone who has ever gone shopping with kids in tow!
Obviously there’s no real comparison between cars separated by an entire generation. But I like to think of the C-Max as what the minivan would be today had it stayed mini.