Before the rise of three-row SUVs, families had one clear choice for a large people carrier: the humble minivan. Even if you didn’t need space for six or seven passengers, parents just opted to get a minivan when they had kids. I know my dad did, and I only have one sister. Things are different now, as SUVs have become the primary choice of transportation for families. If there’s one minivan that can put an end to the SUV’s dominance, it’s the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.
My adoration for minivans knows no bounds. I simply love these vehicles because of one main thing: they don’t try to be something they’re not. Having a spacious cabin for seven people is the number one priority with a minivan. Everything else is extra gravy. Forgetting about how well a car turns into a corner, zero-to-60 mph times, and manual gearboxes that are tighter than those extra slim jeans you got from Banana Republic, the Pacifica Hybrid is nearly as perfect as a vehicle can get.
Besides having a spacious cabin for seven people, it’s got the tech, a comfortable ride, and, thanks to the hybrid aspect, a fuel-efficient powertrain. And Chrysler’s even made an effort to address one of the major reasons that’s holding consumers back from purchasing a minivan: looks.
The majority of consumers may not see minivans as being viable options for a seven-passenger vehicle, but the Pacifica Hybrid proves that minivans still are the best when it comes to ferrying passengers. At the end of the day, there’s very little to fault with the Pacifica.
For better or worse, the Pacifica Hybrid looks like the old 200 but bigger. If you liked the design of the 200, you’ll like the design of the Pacifica Hybrid. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the 200 sedan, I think the Pacifica Hybrid is one of the more better-looking vans on the market. Somehow, it manages to almost hide the fact it’s a minivan at the front, but it’s all people carrier after that.
The Pacifica Hybrid I tested was the range-topping Limited trim that had the available S Appearance Package. As out of place as this may sound, the package brings some touches that are meant to make the minivan look, I don’t know, un-minivan-like. Sporty isn’t the right word, but trendier and stylish are a better fit. I like the way the Pacifica looks, so I think the $795 S Appearance Package is like rubbing shea butter on a 12-year-old scar – pointless.
Regardless of what I think, the Pacifica Hybrid is well equipped and the S Appearance Package brings more equipment. Things like heated exterior mirrors, a hands-free power liftgate, hands-free sliding doors, automatic headlights, and LED taillights are standard. Ticking the box for the S Appearance package brings 18-inch black wheels, black badges, a black roof rack, a gloss black grille, and other black elements.
If the outside of the Pacifica Hybrid won’t win you over, the interior definitely will. There’s a tremendous amount of space for seven passengers and unlike with some full-size SUVs, there’s no winking needed with that statement. During our time with the Pacifica Hybrid, we shuffled seven passengers around a few times and no one grumbled – not even the ones that drew the short straws and had to sit in the back.
In addition to having the ideal amount of space for a family, the Pacifica also has some nifty features that make it easier to drive those many people around on a regular basis. In the hybrid, only the third row are what Chrysler calls Stow ‘n Go seats, but they make things so much easier, requiring a few tugs on well-labeled tabs to fold. And they fold flat, too, leaving a little cargo room for goodies without being intrusive on passengers.
The second-row Captain’s Chairs in the Pacifica Hybrid are the best place to be in the entire vehicle, as each passenger gets their own 10-inch HD touchscreen with a Blu-ray player, dual HDMI inputs, wireless headlights, wireless streaming, and Bluetooth remotes. The screens are brilliant and can fold away when they’re not in use for a streamlined look. Passengers can watch their own items, play a game against one another or on their own, or find out how much time is left on the journey if a destination has been programmed into the navigation system.
For the driver and the passenger in the front, there’s a large 8.4-inch touchscreen running Chrysler’s slick Uconnect 4 system that has everything you could ever ask for, including Wi-Fi hot spot, a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a 360-degree surround-view camera system, a 7-inch digital driver display, a tri-pane panoramic sunroof, and that’s before you even think about the generously padded seats and numerous cubbies. Everything is just so well thought out that it’s easy to fall in love with the minivan.
Unfortunately, everything’s not perfect, though it’s nearly so. Chrysler’s rotary dial for the transmission is confounding to use. I understand the need to be different, but there’s a reason why other automakers haven’t followed down the same path. Design quibbles aside, I found that the dial could be rotated while the vehicle was in motion. I was able to rotate the dial into Neutral at speed, but wimped out on attempting to see if it would move into Reverse if the van was in Drive. I’m bold, but I’m not crazy.
The issue is further accented because the rotary dial for the transmission is awfully close to the dial for the volume. Want to increase the volume on the awesome audio system? You might find yourself shifting into Neutral by mistake, which is a terrible consequence if you’re on the highway.
The only other issues I had with the Pacifica Hybrid include the odd button placement on the center console. You have access to a self-parking system on the center console, but you have to shuffle through the infotainment system to access the heated and cooled seats. From a family perspective, I think you would use the seat functions before the parking system. Then, there’s the fact that you lose second-row Snow ‘n Go seats and the underfloor storage compartment with the hybrid powertrain. These are small gripes that in no way ruin the overall experience.
The entry-level Pacifica Hybrid is a hefty $13,100 premium over the base Hybrid. But if you compare apples to apples, that delta shrinks to $1,350, which is worth the premium. Paying the extra money brings a 3.6-liter V6, two electric motors, and a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. While the Pacifica Hybrid makes less overall power (260 horsepower) compared to the regular Pacifica (287 hp), it makes up for it when it comes to fuel economy.
Thanks to the electric aspect of the powertrain, the Pacifica Hybrid can travel up to 33 miles on nothing but electricity and can get up to 84 MPGe combined. For a vehicle of this size, those figures are excellent. And when the battery runs out of juice, the minivan’s still efficient. Over a 97-mile trip, we managed to get 32.1 mpg combined.
The Pacifica Hybrid, though, is more than just a one-trick pony. When you’re not concerned with fuel economy, the minivan is quiet, comfortable, and easy to drive. On the road, the Pacifica Hybrid feels smaller than its minivan footprint lets on and, thanks to the hybrid aspect, it actually feels sprightly. There’s nothing wrong with the ride or the continuously variable transmission, either. It’s easy to forget how easy minivans are to drive and how well they excel at being normal vehicles.
My one and only complaint when it comes to the Pacifica Hybrid’s powertrain is the V6 engine. Since the electric portion of the equation results in a silent vehicle the majority of the time, the V6 can sound coarse when it’s doing its thing.
At the end of the day, the Pacifica Hybrid is the perfect vehicle for families. There’s so much that it does right, that it’s one of the few vehicles that actually feels worth every penny of the $50,375 price tag on the Pacifica Hybrid Limited we tested. The only issue with the minivan is the person behind the wheel.
After a week with the Pacifica Hybrid, one has to question why more families aren’t buying minivans. Sure, they’re ungainly to look at, but they offer so much more than full-size SUVs. The third row is more usable, there’s more cargo space, they’re easier to drive, and things are so much less competitive in the market. Yes, $50,000 is a lot of money to spend on a minivan, but gosh darn it the Pacifica Hybrid is so worth it.
Here’s some unrequested advice for expecting parents: do yourself a favor and check out a Pacifica – hybrid, used, or new. People may not think you’re the coolest parent behind the wheel of a minivan, but your kids will enjoy the heck out of it and you will too. At the end of the day, doesn’t that take precedent over having four-wheel drive to handle an inch of snow every year?