For buyers looking for the ultimate in functionality, it’s always hard to beat a minivan. Modern minivans offer a winning combination of seating, space and technical features to make transporting a large family as easy as possible. Two vans on sale right now stand out from the rest as particularly interesting all-rounders: the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica. They have both been bestsellers in the segment for years thanks to their competent handling and versatile cabins.
But, which one has the advantage? To decide, let’s take a look at ten of the most common comparisons that buyers often make. A top-of-the-range MPV should provide an excellent experience for both driver and passengers and also be reasonably priced. As expected, the Sienna and Pacifica are both strong contenders, but let’s break things down to really assess which comes out on top.
Since an average minivan is likely to travel over a hundred thousand miles in its lifetime, its handling and performance will make a big difference to the driver. Traditionally, minivans were viewed as heavy vehicles with little to no driving dynamics, but with the Pacifica and Sienna this is no longer the case.
MotorTrend tested the Sienna 2021 and found it to shoot 0-60 in a perfectly reasonable 7.9 seconds, while the Pacifica takes 7.3 seconds. This will of course vary depending on the engine specified by the buyer, but it seems fair to say that the two are pretty much on par in this regard. In terms of handling, the two vehicles are known to be comfortable and competent, although never exciting.
The appearance of a pickup will always be a subjective matter, and it looks like Toyota and Chrysler have taken different paths for their 2021 offerings. The Chrysler is quite streamlined, with an anonymous design that will blend in with all of the other vehicles on the road. It’s not bad at all, but some might say it looks boring even for a minivan.
In comparison, Toyota tried to add a touch of design to the 2021 Sienna, with a huge front grille and jagged tail light design that has been seen on other recent Toyota models. It’s still not exactly a wild look, but it does give the Sienna an edge over the very forgettable Pacifica.
As most buyers would expect, both minivans are extremely practical and offer a variety of layouts and cabin layouts. One of the main differences between the two is that the Sienna’s second row seats are not removable, whereas they are in the Pacifica.
The Sienna’s seats can still slide forward or back 25 inches to provide maximum legroom or maximum cargo space, but it’s still a slightly less customizable arrangement. On this one factor alone, victory for the space category must go to the Pacifica.
The interior of a good minivan needs to be both comfortable and durable, and that’s a difficult task for builders to achieve. In order to ensure the longevity of the cabin, many manufacturers opt for inexpensive but durable hard plastic. It can go on for a long time, but having pieces of plastic inside can really reduce the look and feel of the interior.
Unfortunately, Chrysler fell into this trap with the Pacifica. Even the top-performing models still feature a bit of cheap plastic at times, while the Sienna feels more upscale. The Sienna is also getting a complete interior redesign for 2021, making the van more like an SUV on the inside.
The Sienna and the Pacifica both have a similar range of finishes, and they come in at very similar prices as well. The Pacifica’s cheapest trim, the Touring, costs $ 37,315, while a top-of-the-line Hybrid Pinnacle trim will cost $ 55,045. The Sienna starts a little cheaper at $ 35,635 for the LE version and goes up to $ 51,075 for a Platinum version.
Really, there is nothing to choose from between the lower trims of the two models. The Sienna costs a bit less when fully specified, but other than that it’s hard to pick a winner between the two vans. Both offer excellent value for money, especially compared to an SUV of equivalent size.
The fuel efficiency of a van will make a big difference to its long-term operating costs, especially given the high mileage the average minivan driver will cover each year. Officially, the Chrysler and Toyota are neck and neck, claiming 36 mpg combined.
However, real-world testing by Car and driver suggested that it’s actually the Chrysler that has the advantage here. In their tests, they reported 29 mpg with the Sienna, but a class 31 mpg with the Pacifica. The Pacifica is also able to cover around thirty kilometers entirely electric thanks to its hybrid system, which makes it the big winner in this category.
It might not be the first thing that comes to the mind of every van buyer, but decent towing capacity can add an extra layer of versatility to a vehicle. The Sienna and the Pacifica are again similar in their abilities here, but it’s the Pacifica that is slightly better.
The Sienna weighs 3,500 pounds, which is very reasonable for the segment. But, the Pacifica can tow 100 lbs more, with a 3600 lbs rating. It’s not a huge improvement, but it could make all the difference when it comes to loading luggage.
As you would expect from a modern minivan, the Pacifica and Sienna offer the usual suite of connectivity features. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Alexa connectivity, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. All of this is controlled by a 9 “screen in the Sienna and a 10.1” screen in the Pacifica.
The Toyota offers a little extra in terms of functionality, with standard SiriusXM satellite radio and a 12-speaker JBL audio system available on higher trims. The Pacifica does offer better device charging, however, as it has USB-C ports that allow for quick charging of phones and laptops.
The reliability of any new model is very difficult to predict, but the performance of older generations is a useful indicator. In the case of these two vans, it seems they are both generally reliable, although, surprisingly, neither received top marks in major reliability surveys.
Even so, these are vehicles built for heavy use, and it’s fair to assume that both will be durable and reliable if maintained regularly. Calculations of Edmunds suggests that the Sienna may be slightly more expensive to maintain than the Pacifica, so this is a factor to consider for buyers on a tighter budget.
Ease of ownership
Given the popularity of Chrysler and Toyota as brands, owning either of the two vans will likely be one of the easiest experiences of owning any new car. Parts should be very easy to find, and both models offer full warranties for the first few years of ownership.
Overall, then, it looks like 2021 the competition between the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica will be tougher than ever. There are a few key differences that separate the two vans, but both have minor shortcomings as well. Either van is a great choice and will likely be a reliable and comfortable vehicle for as long as its owners need it.
Have you ever wondered what happens when automakers decide to equip their boring minivans with powerful engines?
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