Most would agree that Chrysler is responsible for inventing the minivan concept back in the 1980s. And ever since, soccer moms everywhere have been grateful for its creation. Although the Detroit automaker no longer has this segment to itself, the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings. The most significant change for 2013 is the addition of a sporty S model to go along with the Touring, Touring L and Limited trim levels.

From the outside, the Chrysler Town & Country exudes styling that is typical minivan "boxy" and looks nearly identical to its cousin, the Dodge Grand Caravan. Within, the 2013 Town & Country is upscale to be sure, but maybe not as roomy as some of its competitors. The leather-trimmed seats are a pleasant surprise in a minivan, and the dashboard is attractive with a padded top and lots of chrome accents that add a classy touch.

In terms of equipment, there's a lot here. Even the base Touring model comes with a generous list of standard features such as a power lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, 6.5-inch touchscreen, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a rear DVD entertainment unit with a new hi-res 9-inch screen. An available dual screen Blue-Ray DVD system with an HDMI port raises the entertainment factor another notch. Although the touchscreen up front is a little dated with some primitive-looking graphics and non-intuitive controls, Chrysler is phasing them out for a much better version.

As far as accommodations, seating and cargo space is adequate but not enormous. With second row 1-touch "Stow-N-Go" seats and third-row seat folded down, there's 143.8 cu ft of storage space back there -- about average for the category. As a bonus, the third-row seat can also be folded down over the bumper for a perfect tailgating bench!

Under the hood, the Town & Country has a 3.6-Liter V6 making 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That's sufficient power for hauling people and cargo at highway speeds, but off-the-line acceleration isn't worth bragging about. Nevertheless, the 6-speed automatic smoothly sends power to the front wheels and features a manual shift mode. Fuel economy is a relatively average 17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy.

On the road, the Town & Country exhibits crisp steering, capable cornering and real maneuverability -- more so than many competitors. And the Sport model's re-tuned suspension gives the Town & Country even sharper reflexes.

The base Touring model, even with its long list of standard goodies, stickers for a little over $30,000. And the powertrain is covered by a reassuring 5-year/100,000-mile warranty.

By comparison, the Honda Odyssey costs slightly less and has some notable electronic hardware, but it's unexciting to drive and less stylish. The Nissan Quest is taller and narrower, but has a great interior design and a responsive V6. And the Toyota Sienna is a little bland but offers a lot of cargo space and has a split-screen rear entertainment unit that can keep two kids happy at once.

Most compelling about the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country is how much minivan you can expect with the base Touring model. You can spend more if you want added luxury and technology amenities, but you won't feel deprived if you pass on loading up the options. Some competing minivans give you more interior space or creature comforts, but the Town & Country gives you more than enough of what you need, all at a sensible price.

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Jessica Shea Choksey is an automotive journalist and former writer/reporter for the PBS/Discovery Channel television series "MotorWeek." She began her career in journalism as an editor for numerous magazines and publications mainly outside of the automotive field. Jessica currently resides with her family, in Southern California.

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