2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige vs 2022 Toyota Sienna PLT AWD vs 2022 Honda Odyssey Elite: The best way to transport a large family?
This week: Toyota Siena
Price: $53,770 as tested. Rear seat entertainment system, $1,415; 1500W inverter, $300; digital mirror with Homelink, $200; floor mat, $220.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “sleek styling, smooth ride, fuel-efficient hybrid setup,” but not that it’s “slower than other non-hybrid vans, interior isn’t as configurable than its rivals, only offered as a hybrid”.
Marketer pitch: “More than enough.”
Reality: Is there anything more practical than an all-wheel-drive hybrid rolling family room?
Catch up: Last week we took a long drive in the new Kia Carnival and found it didn’t quite live up to expectations. This week we test the old Toyota Sienna, which has become more solid.
» READ MORE: Newcomer Kia Carnival takes on favorite Sienna and Odyssey minivans | Scott Sturgis
What’s up: Along with a few design updates, from 2021 the Toyota Sienna comes exclusively with a hybrid (non-plug-in) powertrain and is the only hybrid minivan to offer all-wheel drive. (The Chrysler Pacifica, not available for this comparison, offers either all-wheel drive or hybrid, but not together.)
Up to speed: I don’t really expect a minivan to be a rocket ship, and the Sienna lived up to my expectations. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder develops 189 horsepower; the engines increase that to a total of 245 horsepower, about 10% less than the Honda Odyssey.
Acceleration times aren’t bad—I did a couple of hill starts and didn’t feel bothered by the turtle. The Sienna hits 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, according to Motor Trend. That compares to 7.5 for the Carnival (catch us next week for the Odyssey Report) and 7.1 for the gasoline-powered 2020 Sienna version previously tested.
» READ MORE: Toyota Sienna AWD: It’s all the SUV most of us need | Scott Sturgis
The Sienna sounds so much like a four-cylinder, though. When the engine starts, it just makes a sad whine. Still, I doubt a cooler sound will make the other kids in the high school parking lot welcome you to their little clique.
Lazy: The CVT probably doesn’t help with sound effects either, as the gearless transmission tends to give vehicles a golf cart vibe. But the power for the hills didn’t seem to be lacking, even with five of us roaming the hills and valleys of Chester County.
Fuel economy: Everything pays off in this department, though. Really, who would have expected a minivan that bottoms this category in a driver’s seat review? But Mr. Driver’s seat averaged 33 mpg in the Sienna around Chester County country roads, though I admit I mostly left it in Eco mode. And on the highway it began to rise higher.
On the road: Toyota has long engineered the heavy elephant feel of the Sienna since the 2011 Sturgis family model. But the 2021 was less enthusiastic around the corners than I remember from the 2020 model.
Sport mode tightens up the steering a bit but doesn’t seem to have much effect on lean or actual handling.
Highway handling is good. The ride is comfortable and bumps are smoothed out. I even took it on a rough, washed out dirt road and wasn’t rushed.
Driver’s seat: The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and I agreed that the tester’s leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats provided extraordinary comfort for both of us. Even our old 2011 is a comfortable companion for long journeys.
Friends and Stuff: Surprisingly, the Sienna’s real downside came where I least expected it. The van does not have a removable or foldable second row.
One of the brightest places the Sienna family has thrown everything there – 4 out of 8 panels, a few couches, entire dorms. Admittedly, the seats of the 2011 model are heavy, but they come out when needed. But the cargo count dropped dramatically to 101 cubic feet behind the first row (and crushed the second row). Other dimensions are 33.5 cubic feet behind Row 3 and 75.2 cubic feet behind Row 2.
Still, the Sienna is the most spacious of the three for passengers. And the back row is especially good for headroom.
Play some tunes: Stereo sound is pitiful at Toyota, as it was in 2011. Too much treble, and everything sounds gritty and boring. I give it a B-.
Buttons control volume and tuning, and the simple touchscreen handles almost everything else. Buttons on the outside allow you to switch between modes.
Keeping warm and cool: Like most minivans, cooling down even on moderately hot days can be tricky – there’s a lot of territory to cover. An extra vent on the dash would help immensely – the sloping windshield collects a lot of hot air.
A row of toggles controls everything, and individual parts can be hard to see.
Night watch: The lights shine a bit low, but at least the interior lights don’t interfere with the road.
Where it is built: Princeton, Ind.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Sienna a reliability rating of 3 out of 5. It’s been poor for a few years now.
Next week: Honda Odyssey.