Edmunds experts have rated the Honda Odyssey as their #1 MPV since the 2018 model year. It has the extended utility you expect from a family hauler along with a refined driving experience than other minis. -vans can’t match.
Or can they?
This year, a familiar nameplate gets a complete makeover: the Toyota Sienna. The new 2021 Sienna brings a lot to the table in its hope of ousting the Honda. Most notably, every Sienna is now a hybrid, which is a complete game-changer when it comes to fuel economy.
Edmunds pitted the Sienna against the Odyssey to see which is the better minivan.
ENGINES AND MPG
Honda is sticking to the minivan tradition. The Odyssey uses a 280 horsepower V6 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg by the EPA in combined city/highway driving, which is an average number for a modern minivan.
The Sienna, on the other hand, has a four-cylinder engine and a hybrid system with a continuously variable transmission. Does it trade some power? it has 245 horsepower? in exchange for a big improvement in energy efficiency. The EPA pegs it at 36 mpg combined. After driving several hundred miles, Edmunds experts recorded several tanks of over 40 mpg in a Sienna. Toyota even offers all-wheel drive, which you can’t get on the Odyssey.
PRICE AND VALUE
The 2021 Sienna starts at US$35,635 (including destination) for a front-drive LE. The 2021 Odyssey LX has a lower entry price of $32,910. That’s a big saving, but you don’t get as many features either. The next step up from the Odyssey, the $36,310 EX version, is more comparable to the base LE Sienna.
Want a luxury van? A fully equipped Sienna Platinum with all-wheel drive costs just over $51,000. At $48,940, the Elite version is as good as an Odyssey. Overall, the features and what you pay to get them are similar across all trim level ranges.
Basic warranty coverage and powertrain coverage are also similar. But Toyota offers additional coverage: eight years/100,000 miles on hybrid components, 10 years/150,000 miles on hybrid battery, and two years/25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance. The Sienna’s higher fuel economy also means more savings at the gas pump.
INTERIOR AND TECHNOLOGY
Inside, these minivans are similar. Both minivans have seven- and eight-passenger configurations, spacious cabins, comfortable and versatile seating, plenty of storage, and lots of kid-friendly touches. Even smartphone integration, intercoms and built-in vacuums are standard on higher trims.
The interior is also a chance for differentiation. Honda has an optional in-cab camera system that displays a view of rear passengers on the touchscreen. Toyota doesn’t offer one, but counters with an optional fridge built into the center console, as well as an optional surround-view camera system to aid parking.
The Odyssey has second-row seats that slide side-to-side, making it easier to get into the third row. Toyota offers second-row seats in the Sienna that move further back than those in the Odyssey. They even have optional extendable footrests.
For hauling cargo, both minivans have easy-folding third-row seats. You can also remove the Odyssey’s second-row seats for maximum cargo capacity, though they’re heavy and bulky. The Sienna’s second row seats are no longer removable.
HOW THEY DRIVE
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey is their ride. For any vehicle, judging the ride often comes down to personal preference. Here is our expert opinion.
At the wheel of the Odyssey, things are simple. It drives a bit like a sedan. The V6 and automatic transmission work well together, and there always seems to be enough power to do what you need. Around town, the Honda is as easy to drive as it is on the highway. The ride is pleasant over both small and large bumps in the road. Easy is the key here.
The Sienna hybrid needs a little tweaking. Do you remember that exceptional fuel economy? It has a cost. The Toyota sometimes drives awkwardly, as the regenerative brakes decide how best to react. Its engine is noisy when it’s working its hardest, and you’ll feel the relative lack of power on freeway ramps or when climbing hills. That said, the Sienna has enough guts for most driving situations thanks to the torque from the hybrid battery. The Sienna’s ride quality is generally decent, but gets too bouncy and floaty over bigger bumps.
EDMUNDS SAYS: Minivan buyers will find a lot to like about both the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. This one is close. The difference factors are ultimately handling and interior versatility. The Toyota Sienna stumbles a bit in both areas, giving the Honda Odyssey a photo-finish victory.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by automotive website Edmunds. Mike Schmidt is the Senior Director of Vehicle Testing Operations at Edmunds.