DrivingRental CarsExploring the Difference: SUV vs. Minivan
A minivan rental car on the left and a SUV rental car on the right in Iceland.
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Leah BIlquist
By Leah BIlquistNov 29, 2023 • 12 min read

Exploring the Difference: SUV vs. Minivan

Minivans and SUVs are both popular family and group vehicles, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. Minivans are typically more spacious and comfortable than SUVs, while SUVs offer better fuel economy and off-road capability.

Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your needs and your budget when visiting Iceland. First, let’s talk about exactly what an SUV and Minivan are. Afterwards, we will go over the pros and cons of each. That way you can decide if you should rent a minivan or SUV during your next Iceland road trip.

What is an SUV?

An SUV is a rental vehicle that has seating for 5 passengers or more. They are also known for their added trunk spaces to midsize vehicles.

This is the most popular vehicle for smaller groups, or those seeking extra luggage space. One of the biggest perks of renting a Standard SUV is being able to drive them on rougher terrain.

Are SUVs 4x4 Vehicles?

Simply put, no, a standard SUV is not always a 4X4 Vehicle. Some SUVs only have 2WD. Let’s talk about why having a 4X4 is different from a 2WD.

A 4X4 car is a car that has four-wheel drive has a drivetrain system that directly powers all 4 wheels. This helps with off-roading and driving on rough terrain. 4X4 vehicles also have twice the traction of a 2WD car.

You may also hear the term AWD, which means all-wheel drive. This does count as a 4X4 vehicle. The difference between AWD and 4WD is that AWD is typically always on.

You can toggle between having 4WD on and off. Either way, you are safer in either of these in tough road conditions than you would be in a 2WD.

What is a Minivan?

Minivans are infamous for fitting most people and space. That is why they are rated one of the best family road trip vehicles to rent in Iceland.

A minivan is a large vehicle that has sliding or hinged rear doors. There are usually 3 rows of seats that fit anywhere from 8-9 people. It is the best road trip vehicle for those wanting extra passenger space.

A minivan for 8 people parked in Iceland

Are Minivans 4x4 Vehicles?

While many think that MInivans are not 4X4 vehicles, that is mostly true. However, there is one exception, the Volkswagen Caravelle!

The Volkswagen Caravelle is a 4X4 vehicle that is allowed on F-roads in Iceland. But it's important to remember that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland.

This vehicle allows you and your whole family to explore Iceland’s more rugged and remote landscapes. Just be sure to check the rougher roads you plan to drive with your rental car specialist before leaving for your road trip.

Minivan vs. SUV

Choosing the right rental car for your Iceland road trip should be easy! Now that you know what each vehicle is, we will talk about the pros and cons of each.

1. Seating Capacity

One of the biggest reasons people choose a Minivan over an SUV is the seating capacity. Minivans can hold around 7-9 passengers depending on the model. While SUVs typically can fit 4-5 passengers.

Minivans are preferred for those traveling with a family or a larger group of their favorite people. If you are traveling with a small group a SUV may be more your style.

Picture of the back seat of a Volkswagen minivan for 8 people

2. Luggage Space

Both of these vehicles have plenty of luggage space for you to take advantage of. However, Minivans definitely win between the two.

If you are traveling with two people an SUV can provide a lot of space for you and your entire group. You can even fold the seats down to put more luggage or coolers in the vehicle.

If you are traveling with more than three people, a Minivan may be better for your journey. That way you can fill the trunk space up with luggage and also have a row of seats for additional storage.

In fact, it is said that minivans have 15 extra inches of space than the average 3-row midsize SUV.

The Mercedes vito space in the back trunk

3. Fuel Efficiency

This is a controversial topic because SUVs and Minivans typically have similar fuel efficiency. However, there are certain types of each vehicle that pride themselves on saving money on gas.

SUVs are said to have better fuel efficiency than Minivans. This is mostly due to their size since they are smaller. You will also find more hybrid SUV vehicles than you will with Minivans.

The Fuel efficiency will solely depend on the vehicle you choose, whether that is an SUV or Minivan. You can ask your car rental company specialist about the most fuel-efficient vehicles on site. That way you can rent a car and drive as far as you want!

4. Off-road Capability

Another huge difference when it comes to a SUV vs Minivan, is the off-road capabilities. SUVs are better for off-roading thanks to their 4X4 systems.

If you want to drive Iceland’s F-Roads , you need a 4X4 vehicle. You will find most of our 4X4 vehicles in our fleet of SUVs.

An F-Road is a mountain road that has rugged terrain, this includes dirt or gravel roads. The “F” in F-Road comes from the word FJall, which translates to the mountain in Icelandic. F-Roads will bring you to some of Iceland’s remote areas.

Suabru Forester SUV on a gravel road in Iceland

If you want the space of a Minivan, while also being allowed to drive on F-Roads, rent the Volkswagen Caravelle. This rental vehicle has an AWD system, which is rare when it comes to minivans.

5. Winter Driving

All of our rental vehicles are safe to drive year-round, but choosing a vehicle will depend on your destination.

Minivans are great for driving to locations that are on paved roads. Such as the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon, and even the South Coast of Iceland.

SUVs are amazing for winter driving and tough weather conditions, thanks to their traction and snow mode. You can even visit isolated locations such as Eastern Iceland. If you plan to drive Ring Road in the winter you can, but make sure to have a 4X4 SUV.

Weather can be unforeseen in Iceland and winters can be cold and snowy. Always check the forecast prior to starting your road trip.

A dacia Duster parked on a road in winter in Iceland

SUVs Rentals

We have a lot of different SUVs for you to choose from! But here are a few of our top rental cars that we know you will love.

Dacia Duster

One of our most favored SUV rental cars is the Dacia Duster! This SUV is a 4X4 vehicle and is allowed on Iceland’s F-Roads. It can fit up to 5 people comfortably, as well as 2 large bags and 1 small bag.

It is one of our top rentals due to its affordability, spaciousness, and reliability when taking a road trip through Iceland. Its 4WD capabilities make it well-suited to traverse icy roads during winter.

Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester is an SUV that is great to drive any time of the year. Its powerful 4-wheel drive system allows you to explore Iceland's rugged terrain with ease and confidence.

The Forester has a spacious trunk capacity and can fit 5 large bags, so pack as much as you need.

The Subaru Forester is also allowed on F-roads in Iceland, thanks to its 4WD capabilities.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a special SUV. Its advanced all-wheel-drive system makes it one of the best SUVs for Icelandic road trips.

This SUV has been designed to handle any terrain, varying from paved highways to rocky and uneven off-roads. So you can pretty much adventure however you want throughout the entire country.

This rental car can fit 5 passengers comfortably. It also has room for 3 large and 2 small bags, so everyone's luggage will fit just fine. This vehicle is allowed on Iceland’s F-Roads too!

The land rover discovery sport in a gravel road in Iceland

The Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender is one of our top luxury SUV Iceland rental cars.  It has a 4-wheel drive system that offers different modes for each terrain.

This standard 2 row SUV can fit 5 passengers and has great luggage space. In fact, you can fit 4 large bags and 2 small bags in this spacious vehicle.

Suzuki Jimny

The Suzuki Jimny is a 4WD SUV. It is most recommended for those going on Iceland’s F-Roads or hard-to-reach destinations.

It is equipped with a new and more powerful 1500cc engine that can produce 102hp. Developing that extra bit of torque when you need it.

This rental car is best for two people. It also has plenty of luggage space for you and your crew.

A Suzuki Jimny parked in a scanic landscape in Iceland

Minivan Rentals

Renault Trafic

The best family Minivan to rent is the Renault Trafic, thanks to the popularity it has gained over the years. This 9 Passenger is an excellent choice for larger groups, comfortably accommodating up to nine adults and their luggage with ease.

The Renault also features the latest safety and multimedia entertainment features, and the Trafic ensures an enjoyable and worry-free journey. It is powered by a fuel-efficient diesel engine, consuming approximately 7.2 liters per 100km. That means you can save money on gas when exploring!

Whether you're planning on driving the infamous Ring Road or spending your day admiring the Golden Circle, the Trafic is a great option for you! This best minivan for family travel can either be rented as an automatic or manual vehicle.

The Renault Trafic is not allowed on Iceland’s restricted F-Roads.

A Renault traffic minivan for 9 people

Dacia Jogger

Another great Minivan to rent is the Dacia Jogger. This minivan has seven full-size seats ensuring that you, your friends, or your family have plenty of space to travel together. The Jogger is a 2-wheel drive vehicle that is ideal for up to 6-7 people.

Note that with 7 passengers in the car, the luggage space in the back is very limited. The luggage space in the back only fits one bag but the Dacia Jogger comes with a 330L roof box that fits 2-3 bags or a maximum of 75 kg. Roof boxes are perfect to store away your items that are needed for outdoor activities and so much more.

The Dacia Jogger is not allowed on Iceland’s restricted F-Roads.

Dacia Jogger with a rood box parked with a rainbow in the background

Volkswagen Caravelle

Looking for a comfortable and spacious option for a larger group or family trip? The Volkswagen Caravelle 9 Passenger 4x4 from Go Car Rental Iceland is an ideal choice. With enough capacity to accommodate up to nine adults and their luggage, this top minivan rental offers convenience and comfort, for the whole crew!

The Caravelle is not only spacious but also fuel-efficient, ensuring that your adventure won't break the bank. And, as a true Mercedes Benz, it's a joy to drive.

The Volkswagen Caravelle is the only Minivan in our inventory that is allowed on F-Roads.

The mercedes vito driving on a gravel road in Iceland

Other Car Rental Vehicles

Interested in other vehicles besides an SUV or Minivan? We have a whole fleet of options for you to choose from. Here are our other categories, so you can choose the best car rental for your Iceland road trip.

Small

If you're traveling solo or simply prefer a compact ride, our small rental cars are a wonderful choice. Our fleet of well-maintained vehicles is equipped with the latest features to ensure your ride is both comfortable and safe.

We also offer a variety of fuel-efficient rental cars, which can help you save money on gas during your travels.

A Peugeot Clio blue parked in Iceland

Midsize

For a comfortable and spacious ride, we recommend our midsize vehicles. You'll have plenty of legroom and ample space for all your snacks and gear.

Our top priority is your safety, which is why all our vehicles have the latest safety features to ensure a worry-free journey.

Choosing Your Insurance Plan & Add-ons

Now we will go over the best insurance options and add-ons to have for your road trip with your Minivan.

Insurance Options

It is important to understand that there are three different levels of insurance to choose from at Go Car Rental, Plus+, Premium, and Premium Plus.

Super Collision Damage Waiver

The SCDW or Super Collision Damage Waiver is included in all insurance plans with Go Car Rental.  It will cover collision damages to the vehicle's body and injuries to the driver and passengers. It also covers a majority of emergencies, hospital stays, and even medical checkups.

Gravel Protection

Gravel Protection is also included in all of Go Car Rental’s insurance plans. It includes damage due to gravel, including the body of the car, the headlights, and even the front windshield. Gravel Protection can be a vital add-on when driving in Iceland.

Sand & Ash Protection

SAAP is included in our Premium Plus+ plan! SAAP stands for  Sand and Ash Protection, and it covers just that. Sand or ash can cause a significant mess to a vehicle, sometimes requiring a whole new paint job.

It is recommended any time of the year, but especially when the snow begins to melt, which causes the sand underneath to go from muddy to dry and loose.  This can be added to your insurance plan.

Learn all about Go Car Rental’s different insurance options!

Conclusion: Minivan or SUV?

When it comes to deciding between a minivan and an SUV for your Iceland trip, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice depends on your specific needs, preferences, and the nature of your journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

To answer any remaining queries, here are some frequently asked questions about minivan vs SUV comparison.

Is it better to rent a minivan or an SUV in Iceland?

It depends on your specific needs. For off-roading and challenging terrains, an SUV might be better. However, for family trips and city tours, a minivan could be a more comfortable and economical option.

Are SUVs and minivans equally safe?

Both vehicle types have robust safety features. However, the safety can also depend on the driver's skill and experience with different terrains.

Which is more fuel-efficient: a minivan or an SUV?

Typically, minivans are more fuel-efficient compared to SUVs.

Can minivans handle Icelandic winter conditions?

Most minivans can handle winter conditions. However, it's best to check with your rental company for a vehicle equipped with winter tires and other necessary features.

What should I consider when choosing a vehicle for Iceland?

Consider factors like the size of your travel group, luggage capacity, budget, driving comfort, fuel efficiency, and the kind of terrain you'll be traversing.

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