The 2021 Toyota Sienna sheds minivan stereotypes

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The new 2021 Toyota Sienna looks set to undo the stigma minivans have suffered from for decades. To trick the eye into thinking the Sienna is an SUV, the bonnet has been raised and the base of the A-pillar is pulled back. The sheet metal around the rear wheels bulges out and connects to a bone line that runs along the side of the pickup. An aggressive-looking minivan might not be what someone asked for, but we’ll get it.

Bolder on the outside, (mostly) better on the inside

The sliding doors still announce that it’s your turn to carpool, but the new Sienna’s interior is much more modern and driver-focused than the dated design of its predecessor. A floating center console in the form of a bridge protrudes from the dashboard and leaves a large practical storage space below. Four of the Sienna’s 18 cupholders are housed atop the console, and we like that Toyota has retained an actual shifter rather than adopting the fashionable, unnatural configurations of rotary knobs and knobs. -tappers found on the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey.

HIGHLIGHTS: Aggressive looking minivan, improved refinement and handling, outstanding fuel economy numbers.

Behind the front seats, the new Sienna stops pretending it’s not a minivan. There’s comfortable seating for seven, or eight with the fold-down center seat, and legroom has increased in the second and third rows. Second-row captain’s chairs that recline and look like they’ve stepped out of a dentist’s office slide more than before and provide limo-like accommodation. These chairs don’t pop out or fold into the floor, which limits how much you can pack into the Sienna. The last generation Sienna had removable seats and a whopping 150 cubic feet with the third row stowed and the second row removed, much more than the new Sienna’s 101 cubic feet. Cargo volume behind the second and third rows is down 12 and 5 cubes, respectively. Toyota has reduced the effort required to fold and unfold the third row into the floor, and we can confirm that the operation is almost effortless.

More refined on the road, more efficient at the gas pump

Following the trend of the built-in vacuum, there’s a built-in vacuum, and like the original 1984 Toyota Van, there’s a small refrigerator in the center console. The new Sienna also adds foot-activated power sliding doors. Knock under the door and the door opens or closes. A full range of driver-assist technologies are standard, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.

WEAK: Hybrid powertrain sacrifices acceleration for fuel economy, second-row captain’s chairs can’t be removed, some brakes fade.

The Sienna switched to Toyota’s TNGA-K platform, an architecture that also underpins the Highlander and RAV4. Stronger than before and with a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase, the Sienna also gets a new multi-link rear suspension that replaces a less sophisticated twist-beam axle. Driving is safer and steering is quicker and more precise.

On the track, our all-wheel-drive Sienna Platinum posted an identical 0.79g on the skid as a 2019 Sienna AWD we tested. The newer’s stopping distance from 70 mph is also up five to 188 feet over its predecessor, and we noticed moderate brake fade. Still, minivan buyers will likely care more about the Sienna’s new refinement than its borderline handling.

Customers are also likely to care a lot about the Sienna’s fuel economy, which is why the Sienna is now hybrid-only. In place of the old 296-hp 3.5-liter V6 is a 2.5-liter inline-four that pairs with two electric motors to produce 245 horsepower. Almost a second slower to 60 mph than the V-6 (7.7 seconds versus 6.8), the hybrid system delivers powerful acceleration from low rpm. The hybrid’s fuel economy is considerably better than its predecessor’s 19 mpg city, 27 highway and 22 combined. The front-drive hybrid is EPA-rated up to 36 mpg in all three measurements, which is also considerably higher than its V-6-powered rivals. The all-wheel-drive model loses a single mile per gallon in city and combined ratings. In our hands, we average 29 mpg.

The Sienna still tows up to 3,500 pounds, and all-wheel drive remains an option, but instead of a driveshaft, there’s an electric motor powering the rear axle. The Sienna’s 1.9 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery is housed under the front seats to avoid compromising cargo space. When sufficiently charged and put into EV mode, the battery enables purely electric driving over short distances and at low speeds.

Last word

Toyota has slightly revamped the Sienna’s model lineup, which now starts with the base LE and moves up to the top-spec XLE, XSE, Limited and Platinum. Base prices stay relatively close to outgoing versions and range between $35,635 for the LE and $51,635 for an all-wheel-drive Platinum like our test car. While the new Sienna won’t change public perception of minivans as much as Toyota’s marketing department hopes, it has the style and substance to challenge the refreshed Chrysler Pacifica, facelifted Honda Odyssey and upcoming Kia. Sedona.

Features

Features

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD

VEHICLE TYPE
front engine, all wheel drive, 7 passengers, 4 door van

PRICE AS TESTED
$53,350 (base price: $51,635)

POWERTRAIN
189 hp, 176 lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve 2.5-litre inline-4 + 3 permanent magnet synchronous AC motors, front: 180 hp, 199 lb-ft; rear: 54 hp, 89 lb-ft (combined power, 245 hp); 1.9 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery

TRANSMISSION
automatic continuously variable

FRAME
Suspension (front/rear): struts/multi-link
Brakes (front/rear): 12.9″ vented disc/12.5″ vented disc
Tyres: Bridgestone Turanza LS1000, P235/60R-18 102V M+S

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 120.5″
Length: 203.7″
Width: 78.5″
Height: 68.5″
Passenger volume: 162 feet3
Cargo volume: 34 feet3
Empty weight: 4821 lbs.

CD TEST RESULTS
100 km/h: 7.7 sec
100 mph: 21.0 sec
Rolling start, 5-100 mph: 8.7 sec
Top speed, 30-50 mph: 4.4 sec
High gear, 50-70 mph: 5.6 sec
1/4 mile: 15.8 sec at 88 mph
Top speed (limited governor, manufacturer’s request): 116 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 188 ft
Handling, 300 ft diameter pad: 0.79 g
Acceleration times from a standing start omit a 1-foot rollout of 0.3s.

CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 29 mpg

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 35/36/35 mpg

CD THE TESTS EXPLAINED

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