Top-Rated 2012 Vans: Performance & Design

Each year, J.D. Power and Associates measures consumer satisfaction with the design and performance of new vehicles through the company's annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study (APEAL). Survey respondents must have owned the vehicle for 90 days, and those who meet that requirement can share their opinions about vehicle performance, styling, comfort, interior layout, and more. This 2012 Vans buyer's guide highlights the two van models that received the highest ratings in terms of overall APEAL. The vans are listed in alphabetical order.


2012 Honda Odyssey

An 8-passenger minivan, the 2012 Honda Odyssey is highly rated by consumers for its performance and design. The 2012 Odyssey is sold in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Touring Elite trim levels, providing buyers with a range of choice from an affordable model with everything a family might need to a luxury model with everything a family might want. For 2012, the Odyssey sees few changes, as the van was redesigned for the 2011 model year. The popular Odyssey EX trim level is now equipped with standard Bluetooth calling and music streaming, a hard-drive music server, USB port, and an 8-inch information display on the dashboard.

Every 2012 Odyssey is equipped with a 248-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine equipped with Variable Cylinder Management, which helps to conserve fuel. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard, with a 6-speed automatic included for the Touring and Touring Elite versions. Fuel economy measures 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway with the 5-speed transmission, and the 6-speed transmission is EPA-rated to return 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway.

To expand cargo capacity from 38.4 cubic feet to 93.1 cubic feet, the third-row seat folds into the floor. A maximum of 148.5 cubic feet of cargo room is available with the second-row seats removed from the vehicle and the third row stowed. Honda also provides what it calls a "wide mode" configuration for the second-row seats, allowing owners to install three child safety seats in that row. The 2012 Odyssey is a "Top Safety Pick" according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and receives the highest overall rating of 5 stars for crash protection according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

2012 Nissan Quest

Another top-rated 2012 van in terms of its performance and design is the Nissan Quest. When Nissan redesigned the Quest for the 2011 model year, the automaker took a different approach. Rather than install seats that fold into the floor or require removal to maximize cargo space, Nissan provided seats that fold down similar to an SUV, combined with a large covered storage well in the van's trunk. Though the result is a compromise in terms of maximum cargo volumes, it is also simpler and, in some respects, less of a hassle than traditional minivan seating arrangements.

The 2012 Quest is offered in S, SV, SL, and LE trim levels. Changes for 2012 include the addition of satellite radio to the SV and SL trim levels, and a new Super Black paint color. A 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is standard, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to achieve EPA fuel-economy ratings of 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

In terms of cargo-toting capability, the Quest holds 25.7 cubic feet of cargo behind its third-row seat. Fold the seat down, and the van offers 63.6 cubic feet of volume. Fold the second-row seats down as well and the Quest carries 108.4 cubic feet of cargo. As of this writing, the NHTSA has not performed crash tests on the Quest, but the IIHS found the van to provide "Good" crash protection in frontal-impact, side-impact, and rear-impact assessments, with an "Acceptable" rating assigned for roof crush strength.