For hauling cargo, you might rule out the Mazda5 and Escape/Mariner if you need to carry passengers at the same time. One nice thing about the 5 however is that the 2+2+2 seating arrangement allows allot of flexibility in where people and cargo can ride.
I have a 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager with the 3.8. Here in Western PA it is difficult for me to get more than 22 mpg (mixed mode driving 35.6 miles round trip, 6 grade changes, 8 stops, snow tires and low 20 degree temps). However, when I drove it to Florida, highway miles the whole way I was able to clock 31 mpg without trying too hard. My wife drove it back north and still got 25 mpg. (she refuses to hypermile)
There is potential there, but I can do 40+ religeously in my honda, so the van is strictly cold weather transport for me, or backup family vehicle if my wife's Hyundai goes into the shop.
i LOVE toyota Previa vans. They get super miles per gallon, and you can swap in a few different engines to get what you really want in there. If you have ever heard of the previa, you will know that they can get like, 220,000 miles with out any problems. The trouble now adays is finding one that doesn't already have 300,000 miles. If you can find a low mileage one, without any rust, i highly reccoment it!
lets you sort by vehicle class, so you can compare all mini vans of a year, but personly, I would go with something like the XB as well, but really, what are your needs? total people, total cargo, cargo size, miles per year.
Thanks guys, I've been reading intently and shopping but not posting much.
I think what I need is like a (eek) Grand Caravan. You can leave one kid seat in the back and still have approx. 4x4x4 feet of cargo space. I would really prefer and older Saturn SW1 for FE, but it's the same (cargo) size as what I have now. Another possible option is a stripped Metro, no room for kids but would work for me and cargo. High FE and (IMO) cool.
So right now a stripped Metro plus the Subu-two is the goal, as it seems to be the cheapest route, although I've seen mini vans cheap. Never have I found a manual trans though.
Anyone wanna buy a gashog?
"If you want to save gas I suggest you permanently remove the drivers seat and steering wheel. That seems to help." -Oscar Halverson
I have friends with a Grand Caravan V6 auto with about 120k miles on it getting pretty tired now but with the ScanGauge1 on it I drove it to boston Logan and got 29mpg highway and about 27 coming back fully loaded with 3 adults including me and 3 kids and all their luggage. It burns about .6gph at idle so don't stop if you can avoid it. This is without any "modifications" to it, just the family beater with 38psi in the tires (recomended pressure).
The 2006 xB is also a good choice for hauling a lot of weight and not killing yourself if you have to turn - really stiff suspension and great mileage as you know - getting 37 in lousy winter short trip conditions and 43-45 mpg if the trip is more than a few miles. This is with a good break in and Synlube so you have to factor that in as well. Not much trunk space with the back seat up but plenty if down and a low back end to load easy and the rear seat can be removed pretty easy but I have not done that yet - it is even carpeted under the seat. The price is what can't be beat however sticker was about 16,500 new delivered. The 2008 is bigger - bigger trunk - bigger engine and lower mileage but I have not seen on up close yet.