It’s an unspoken rule that buying a minivan is some kind of rite of passage, the end of youthful freedom and the kiss of death to any sense of cool or hipness. With all the sex appeal of comfortable shoes, the minivan symbolizes the inevitable surrender to responsibility, and an inexorable slide into boring adulthood. But just like the plush welcome of your favorite Birkenstocks, the ease with which it slips into your life makes the van quite hard to resist.
The Toyota Sienna has been around for 23 years and has remained unchanged for the past decade. Toyota’s research showed them that the typical minivan owner is 37 years old and has a growing family, business, hobby or leisure activity. They tend to be loyal – it’s hard to go back once you find out how useful these vehicles can be. But they would appreciate more style and technical innovation and move away from the frugality that has defined the segment for so long.
Having undergone a complete redesign for 2021, the Sienna enters its fourth generation with much more swagger – without losing any of the practicality that has made it one of the best-selling vehicles in its segment.
Now riding on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, the Sienna is now taller, longer and wider, with a 20mm lower floor than its predecessor without losing any ground clearance.
The new architecture is wrapped in a design that Toyota says was “inspired by” the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, led by a blunt face with swept-back headlights flanking a rather large, angry grille. The enormous expanse of side sheet metal is interrupted by a distinctive character line derived from the Toyota Supra. There are several exterior and interior paint schemes and three wheel choices available; a 17-inch alloy, an 18-inch bright metal, and a 20-inch dark alloy. Overall, the Sienna makes a valiant attempt to break away from the heftiness so inherent in its segment. But Toyota’s claim that we could consider it “a sliding-door SUV” is a bit of a stretch.
But like an SUV, the Sienna can be optionally fitted with all-wheel drive across the entire model range and it’s the only minivan to be fitted as a hybrid only.
In a bold move, Toyota has done away with the V6 option and offers the Sienna with a single powertrain; a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine with electric motor, for a combined output of 245 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive models come with an additional electric motor at the rear axle with power on demand and a torque split that switches from 100:0 to 20:80 as needed. The maximum towing rating on all Siennas is 3,500 lbs.
New powertrain helps reduce Sienna’s fuel consumption by 43% compared to the previous model: the official NRCan rating for the new front-wheel-drive Sienna is 6.5 L/100 km combined compared to 11.0 L for the 2020 Sienna; and 6.7 L combined for AWD models compared to 11.7 L for the previous model. These are impressive numbers in a segment where frugality matters. But utility matters even more, and the Sienna hits those numbers without losing cargo space since the 1.9 kWh battery is located under the front seats. There is no range anxiety, nor searching for charging stations since the battery is recharged by the kinetic energy produced by braking and coasting.
The interior space is where the minivan shines. The Sienna is available in seven- or eight-passenger configurations and has a boot volume of 949 liters that expands to 2,129 liters with the rear seats folded down and 2,860 liters with the middle and third rows down. . The second row is available in a bench or captain’s chairs in higher trim levels that slide 25 inches fore and aft, and come with an optional ottoman. The third row seats are reduced from 24 kg to 8 kg thanks to a lightweight resin frame and can be stowed in a single movement. Kick-activated power sliding doors are available in higher trim levels.
The front seats are divided by a floating bridge console equipped with four cupholders – the Sienna has 16 in total – and a deep storage compartment.
Every Sienna comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, a suite of driver aids that includes lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning with steering assist and road edge detection, and automatic high beams. Additional safety features include 10 airbags, LATCH system for up to five child seats, tire pressure monitoring system and available Clearance Sonar with automatic rear cross-traffic brake.
Also standard is a 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, seven USB ports, power sliding doors and a heated steering wheel. Other technologies available include a digital display rearview mirror, bird’s eye view camera, wireless charger and Driver Easy Speak which allows the driver to address rear passengers through the speakers of the audio system. An 11.6-inch rear entertainment package with remote control and two wireless headphones is also available (standard on higher trims). Through its dealer network, Toyota offers the Sienna Mobility Package, a wheelchair adaptation system available on FWD LE and XLE models.
On the road, the Sienna feels solid, soaking up bumps and road imperfections and delivering a quiet, calm ride. It’s not as powerful as its competitors Odyssey and Pacifica, but feels nimble enough for merge and passing maneuvers. Three driving modes are available: Normal, Eco and Sport, and an EV driving mode button that will allow you to drive on battery power at less than 30 km/h for two kilometres. On a course of mostly winding back roads and very little freeway, I achieved an overall fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, which is pretty good for a huge vehicle with the aerodynamics of a freezer. chest.
Arriving soon at Canadian dealerships, the Sienna starts at $39,990 for a base, front-wheel-drive, eight-passenger LE, and goes up to $58,190 for a Sienna Limited AWD. An estimated 67% of Canadian buyers will opt for all-wheel drive, and Toyota predicts the big seller will be the XSE AWD at $47,690. A Platinum model with on-board freezer and vacuum cleaner will arrive later.
Jhe vehicle was supplied to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle ratings were not subject to to approval.