Say what you will about the minivan stigma. It has a lot going for it in cargo and people hauler categories and in many respects beats out the traditional SUV for overall roominess.

Our tester for the week was the spunky Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid version that debuted four years ago. Not only is the Pacifica pleasant on the eyes, but it’s also the hands down winner for young families’ car-pooling needs and the ease of sliding door entry/exit. Kids love it.

Pros:

  • Immense cargo room for tall items
  • Lots of standard safety gear
  • Restyled exterior

Cons:

  • Fussy infotainment system
  • All wheel drive not available
  • Towing not recommended

The hybrid is available in four trim levels: Touring, Touring L, Limited and Pinnacle. Each is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 and two electric motors boasting 260 horsepower. All are equipped with a continuously variable transmission.

Non-hybrid version has 287 ponies. Hybrid prices range from the high $30s to mid $50s. Our decked out Limited tester can be in your driveway for $51,025 plus tax.

Good news. To offset the coin toss, buyers are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit.

Odds are you will not be racing the hybrid model although with the instant on electric power, the Pacifica reached the 60 mile-per-hour mark in just under eight seconds – partly due to its 5,010- pound curb weight.

On a full charge, the Pacifica will travel about 30 miles before converting to gasoline only mode. Charge time is about two hours on a 240-volt charger and more than twice that time with household current.

Seating is available for up to seven people with a second-row bench in place of very

comfortable Captain’s chairs. Cabin materials for the most part are stylish, although we did notice some plastics here and there.

Exterior styling inches the Pacifica closer to SUV looks with a larger blacked-out grille, square air inlets at each corner and full width taillight.

All models include LED lighting, pedestrian emergency braking, blind-spot monitors at each side, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and full stop adaptive cruise that keeps your car a preset distance from traffic ahead, accelerating and braking when needed.

With all seating rows upright, there is nearly 33 cubic feet of storage out back. With third row collapsed, cargo expands to 87. Storage spirals to 141 cubes with the second-row seats folded for those occasional trips to building centers. Pacifica storage leads this segment.

Our tester included available Nappa leather seating, 760-watt, 20 speaker sound system, surround view camera and tri-pane sunroof.

On the road, our Pacifica delivered a compliant ride with engine noise apparent under acceleration. Suspension is on the soft side and steering communicates with the road on lengthy trips.

We found acceleration onto interstate roadways is adequate and regenerative braking is barely noticeable while it works in the background to restore energy.

For minivans, the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna are among the few out there and we suggest test drives in each before making your buying decision.

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