2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Review and Review: Muscular Minivan

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The first brand new vehicle I ever purchased from the lot was a 1986 Toyota Van. the right vehicle at the right price at the right time for me. My van was a CRG Cargo Van trim model, which meant it had no rear side windows, no second or third row seats, no sound insulation, rear interior trim, roof or carpet, and no radio. The only option I accepted was a front passenger seat. I loved this van and drove it for many years, across the country and back. It made me a minivan fan and follower of Toyota’s minivan progression.

Toyota’s original van lasted from 1984 to 1989. It was replaced in 1990 by the innovative Previa, which never really took off in the US market. 1998 saw the debut of the Sienna, which now rode on a front-drive platform shared with Camry, and suddenly Toyota was in the minivan mix. A second generation Sienna was released in 2004, followed by a third generation in 2011 and a fourth generation in 2016. Although Toyota has been a leader in gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles with Prius, Camry, Highlander and others models, Sienna has never received treatment for HEV. So far, with the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid. Not only is there an HEV minivan in Toyota’s lineup, but it’s the only choice. Now built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform shared with the Highlander and other current models, the Sienna meets the challenge presented by the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan – the only other current hybrid minivan on the US market. . And it meets that challenge in more ways than just adding a hybrid.

Sienna does its best to present with SUV style. He does not hide that it is a minivan, which would be impossible, because the sliding side doors immediately betray it. But it has a macho front end, and the door hinges and runners have been redesigned to bury the sliding channel under the rear side window frame and tuck the door into the body. The rear doors actually have styling details integrated into the rear fender well, and the overall profile is assertive and has a nice stance. 17-inch wheels are standard on base models, rising to 18-inch and even 20-inch wheels on higher trim levels. Twenty-somethings in a minivan?

The interior also eschews the minivan/school bus feel in the forward cabin, with a clean, simple design. Befitting a family hauler, there’s a ton of smart storage up front, in the second and third rows. Particularly useful are the open storage space under the console, the large door pockets and the numerous cup holders (15 to 16, depending on whether or not you choose a spare tire). Second and third row passengers enjoy comfortable and spacious seating – either twin captain’s chairs or a bench seat in the second row, and a three-seat bench seat in the third row. By the way, the third row is standard on all grades. It is a 60/40 split bench that easily stores in the floor. The second row slides up to 25 inches, making it easy to access the third row if needed.

Another function of the van is cargo handling. Sienna is ready to be the workhorse of the family, in fact capable of hauling a full sheet of plywood four-by-eights inside with the tailgate fully closed – a throwback to my old Cargo Van. Due to the capacity of the second row, there is plenty of flexibility for loading luggage and cargo, either behind the second row through the tailgate or in front of the second row through the side doors. Rated cargo measurements are 33.5 cubic feet behind the third row; 75.2 cubic feet behind the second row; and 101.0 cubic feet behind the first row. With that sliding second row, however, those measurements can be juggled to accommodate cargo. If you need to tow, the Sienna can handle up to 3,500 lbs.

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors combine to produce 243 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available on all trim levels. All-wheel drive is achieved by a separate electric motor driving the rear wheels with 54 hp and 89 lb-ft of torque, eliminating a lot of mechanical complications.

The Sienna uses an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), as opposed to a conventional stepped-gear automatic transmission. CVTs have their fans because they can deliver power smoothly and efficiently and help maximize fuel efficiency. In the Sienna Hybrid, the CVT is a bit of a letdown, as it tends to dull throttle response, accelerating rather than bouncing. But it’s the compromise of a hybrid and a minivan – a little less fun behind the wheel. Many riders will never miss the lack of punch. Four selectable driving modes (Normal, EV, Eco and Sport) can be activated with a rocker from the center console.

Handling has been significantly improved over the outgoing Sienna, thanks to new TNGA front suspension and steering and independent trailing arm rear suspension. Body roll is minimal and the Sienna Hybrid covers the miles with comfort and ease.

EPA fuel economy figures for front-wheel-drive Sienna hybrid models are 36 mpg city/36 mpg highway/36 mpg combined, while AWD models are rated at 35 mpg city/36 mpg mpg highway/35 mpg combined. That’s a significant improvement over the gas-only Sienna 2WD’s combined 19mpg city/26mpg highway/21mpg – exactly the kind of improvement Toyota minivan buyers have been asking for.

Beyond its hybrid powertrain technology, the Sienna packs a ton of standard and available tech features. A nine-inch touchscreen is standard on all trims, providing access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, SiriusXM (with a three-month trial), a USB media port and six USB charging ports throughout the cabin.

The driver is entitled to several technical features. A color multi-information display in the center of the dash (4.2-inch on LE, XLE and XSE; 7.0-inch on LTD and Platinum) displays odometer, fuel economy, trip information and alert messages. In Platinum trim models, a 10-inch color Head-Up Display (HUD) displays speedometer, navigation and hybrid system information (a first in the class). Limited and Platinum models can upgrade to a digital rearview mirror, a feature that swaps the actual view reflected in the rearview mirror with feed from the rear video camera. This can be a nice feature when carrying a full load of passengers or when passengers are using the rear seat entertainment system, which can block the view of a conventional rear view mirror. Remote keyless entry is standard with push-button start, upgraded to the Smart Key system on the XLE and later.

The Sienna Hybrid comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and the Star System, active and passive safety suites that are standard on all trim levels.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid will be available in five trim levels, each with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $34,460 LE FWD/$36,460 LE AWD; $39,750 for XLE FWD/$41,750 for XLE AWD; $42,000 for XSE FWD/$42,760 for XSE AWD; $46,700 for Limited FWD/$48,500 for Limited AWD; and $49,900 Platinum FWD / $50,460 Platinum AWD. There are a few options and packages available, including $1,415 Rear Seat Entertainment (all except LE), $200 AC Inverter Outlet (all except LE), and $75 Spare Tire ( all), but for the most part, the trim levels represent full walks up the scale commensurate with the price. By comparison, the 2020 Toyota Sienna started at $31,640 for LE and went up to $48,055 for Limited Premium.

The Sienna Hybrid’s only other current direct competitor is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (a plug-in hybrid), which starts at $39,995. The rest of the minivan field is gas-powered, no hybrid options are available, including the Honda Odyssey (from $31,790); Kia Sedona (from $30,400); Dodge Grand Caravan (from $27,530); and Chrysler Voyager (from $27,235).

I’m still not in the minivan demographic, but I could easily learn to love a 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid. If you’re looking for a great family vehicle, look beyond the SUV before making a decision.

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