I thought that after my son was born, we would be able to continue with my wife's Corolla, and my Ranger pick-up as our family vehicles. But within a week of returning home from the hospital with child seat, diaper bag and other parenthood necessities, and facing a 3 hour road trip for a planned family vacation a scant 6 weeks ahead (with 60 lb dog) I found myself on-line researching minivans.
As an avid woodworker, and a rental property owner, I still needed hauling capacity, so sedans and wagons had already been cut from possible purchase category.
I looked at Chrysler, Honda, Mazda, and Kia vans in addition to the Toyota- the decision to buy the Toyota was due to the benefits I saw in: (order of importance in my decision)
-Safety (full compliment of air bags)
-Seating flexibility/hauling capacity (fold downs)
-Power side door
-Style (yes... I do realize I am talking about minivans here)
While it was the most expensive of the options I looked at, I justified the price based on the benefits mentioned above, and my expectation that I will get 8-10 years out of the vehicle minimum.
With 7 months of driving, including some 6 hour plus road trips, I can say I am very happy with my decision. I have not had any issues with road noise as referenced by another reviewer, but of course my previous primary vehicle was a pick-up truck. Extremely comfortable on long trips and convenient for getting car seat in and out, even in tight parking lots, thanks to sliding side door. folding down all back seats, I have been able to put full sheets of plywood in the van. We are currently averaging about 22 miles per gallon- primarily short commutes.