Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and carefully examines its entry-level version. If we deem it worthy of your consideration, we will let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one – or the required options – that will get the passing grade.
Although SUVs and crossovers have long since supplanted minivans as the family vehicle of choice for many Canadians, a few manufacturers continue to invest heavily in the development of these wheeled boxes. Despite fewer options, there’s an argument to be made that the remaining minivans are the best of their breed.
Toyota recently improved this segment by adding four-cylinder hybrid power as standard equipment in its Sienna minivan. Although it only manages 245 horsepower, its real-world fuel economy is very attractive, with our tests boasting an impressive performance of 6.5 L/100 km. Customers will get this powertrain no matter how much money they spend on a Sienna, although all-wheel drive is an extra-cost option.
Practicality is the business of any van purpose, and the Sienna brings the goods in that regard. Even the base LE ($40,490) comes with a tri-zone climate control system, for example, providing both front-seat passengers and the peanut gallery can adjust the room temperature to its own wishes. It makes more of a difference than you might think on long trips. The front seats are heated, with the driver receiving power adjustments, while the side mirrors and wiper parking area also benefit from heated grills. This leather-wrapped steering wheel is also heated.
Digital goodies on the LE include a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen, a slew of USB charging ports (some of which are conveniently placed on the dash’s “flying bridge”), and a safety kit like Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 plus blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
Styling isn’t usually too high on the priority list for most minivan buyers, but it helps if the thing doesn’t look like a battered hamster. Toyota says the Sienna’s headlights are meant to evoke the Japanese bullet train, and the van’s side panels have visually interesting flared surfaces. The lack of color selection on the base LE is irritating, but at least the trio of grayscale paint choices are all zero-dollar options.
What we would choose
Choosing to spend the extra $1,860 on all-wheel-drive seems like a no-brainer, though we still heartily recommend picking up a full set of good-quality winter tires. Making the multi-thousand-dollar march to the next XLE trim is less clear cut, unless one is determined to features like a sunroof and four-zone climate control. However, there’s a case to be made that the XLE’s Softex (read: faux leather) seats are easier to clean, which isn’t insignificant when families are involved.
Still, that $3,000 price difference can buy an awful lot of wipes and a really good wet/dry vacuum. Since minivans are the most practical things on the road, it makes sense to be cautious in your purchasing decision as well. We’ll stick with the LE trim, though the all-wheel-drive selection is up to you.