Review: If you’re shopping for a minivan, the Toyota Sienna should be at the top of your list

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Toyota Sienna hybrid 2021.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Toyota Sienna is a staple in the minivan market. In circulation for 23 years, it has only seen three major redesigns, the last of which was in 2010.

Toyota “doesn’t mess with a good thing,” says Scott MacKenzie, National Manager, External Affairs, Toyota Canada.

But Toyota has. This fourth-generation Sienna has been completely redesigned for 2021 and is now only available as a hybrid.

Designed, manufactured and assembled in North America, the Sienna is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors. Together they produce 245 horsepower. The redesigned nickel-metal hydride battery is small and tucks under the front seats so as not to clutter up valuable cargo or passenger space. It’s a self-charging hybrid; it is not a plug-in. So there’s no need to recharge the hybrid battery or spend thousands of dollars installing a battery charger in the garage. Also, there is no range anxiety. The system automatically charges the battery while driving. It also comes with a 10-year/240,000 km warranty. And it has other advantages over a gasoline-only vehicle.

The redesigned nickel-metal hydride battery is small and fits under the front seats.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

“You use less fuel, spend less money and your vehicle generates fewer emissions,” says MacKenzie. Natural Resources Canada’s official fuel economy rating is 6.5 L/100 km combined highway and city driving for the FWD Sienna, a 41% improvement over the previous generation, which was rated at 11L/100km. The all-wheel-drive version is rated at 6.7 L/100 km, a 43 percent improvement over the previous version, which reported 11.7 L/100 km.

The Sienna is available in a 7- or 8-seat configuration. Both are spacious and comfortable like a lounge on wheels, especially if you opt for the 7-seater version with two second-row heated captain’s chairs with available ottomans. The seats recline and slide forward and back up to 25 inches for more legroom. But unlike some competitors, the seats can’t be removed or folded into the floor. But that’s not a downside, says Stephen Beatty, vice president and general secretary, Toyota Canada Inc.

The Sienna is available in a 7- or 8-seat configuration.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

“With the seats squashed against the front seats, you still have the option of placing the iconic 4×8 plywood sheet in the rear of the vehicle. At the same time, the sliding latch system allows us to put airbags in the seats – this allows us to heat them up and give a variety of other functions that simply wouldn’t be possible if they were stored in the floor or were removed from the vehicle,” adds Beatty.

In total there are 10 airbags, up to 16 cupholders, 7 USB ports, a deep 10.5L center console, power tilt and telescoping steering column with heated steering wheel and a color head-up display of 10 inches, which shows vital information for the driver directly on the windshield. There’s also a new HD rear entertainment system with an 11.6-inch screen. The screen is big and wide; it descends from the center of the roof. Although it is ideal for children, it unfortunately obstructs the driver’s visibility when looking out of the rear view mirror.

There’s a new HD rear entertainment system with an 11.6-inch screen.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

When both captains chairs are seashells and pulled forward, it creates a large open space. Coupled with a wide door opening and huge side grab handles, it makes it easy for children and the elderly to get in and out of the third-row seats, which incidentally are also comfortable for adults. The third-row seats, while lighter than the last generation, are still heavy and require a bit of elbow grease to move around. New added convenience features, such as kick-opening and closing side sliding doors and rear hatch, are extremely practical. Just kick under the side door and it opens. You can also use the key fob to remotely activate the doors or the tailgate, if your hands are busy.

Ten versions are available in FWD or AWD configurations. Four mobility versions, offered in FWD models, are also offered in partnership with Braun and VMI. The Platinum top trim, which includes innovative features such as a built-in vacuum and built-in fridge, unfortunately won’t be available for several months due to vendor issues during COVID-19.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan goes on sale December 1, 2020. Prices start at just under $40,000.

There are up to 16 cup holders.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail


2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Van
  • Base price: $39,990 and over (+ $1,840.00 freight and delivery charges)
  • Motor: two electric motors + 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, 245 horsepower combined
  • Gearbox/Drive: continuously variable transmission; TA/AWD
  • Fuel consumption (litres/100 km city and highway):
  • Front-wheel drive – 6.5 L/100 km combined
  • AWD – 6.7 L/100 km combined
  • Alternatives: Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona


Tiny “hybrid” decals decorate the side and back.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

This fourth-generation Sienna has grown in all dimensions – compared to the previous generation, it’s 80mm longer and 10mm wider with an additional 30mm longer wheelbase. The height is also lowered by 20 mm. Three vibrant new colors are added to the range including Sunset Bronze, Blueprint and Ruby Flare Pearl. Tiny “hybrid” decals also decorate the side and rear.


The Sienna features dual kick-opening sliding side doors and a rear hatch.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Comfortable and spacious with many technological and practical features, including kick-opening double sliding side doors and a rear hatch. A small mark under the side door signals the right place to knock so you don’t try the maneuver repeatedly. The design and layout of the dashboard is smart and intuitive with plenty of small and large storage compartments for everything from cell phones and tablets to handbags and laptops. The second-row captain’s chairs are extremely comfortable, reclining and sliding for added comfort. Too bad they can’t be removed or folded flat into the ground.


The Sienna absorbs bumps, potholes and other road damage well.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Pleasant road behavior; it’s smooth, comfortable and confident. You would never know you were driving a hybrid. Sometimes the engine whines when pushed, if it joins the freeway or passes slower vehicles. Absorbs bumps, potholes and other road damage well. AWD is an attractive option – making this minivan the only AWD hybrid on the market. Plus, it can tow 3,500 lbs.


Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Toyota Safety Plus 2.0, a bundled set of safety technologies, which includes automatic emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams and pre-collision system with pedestrians and cyclists, is standard on all versions. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard.


When all three rows are in use, there’s 949 liters of cargo space.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Excellent loading capacity. When all three rows are in use, there’s 949 liters of cargo space. Drop the third-row seats and it jumps to 2,129 litres. Behind the front seats there is 2,860 liters of space.

The verdict

If you’re shopping for a minivan, the Sienna should be at the top of your list! But wait until the Platinum version gets the added bonus of a built-in fridge and vacuum cleaner, it will make your neighbors green with envy.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. The content was not subject to approval.

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