Toyota’s Sienna is now a full-time hybrid minivan.
Talk about transformations! The Toyota Sienna minivan, now in its fourth generation, is a hybrid-only model, much like the Prius and Venza. It’s the biggest change in this model’s history, making this easily the most efficient model in the segment. But there are two caveats: the base price is up and overall performance is down from the previous generation.
Toyota offers the 2021 Sienna in LE ($34,460), XLE ($39,750), XSE ($42,000), Limited ($46,700), and Platinum ($49,900) trims. Add $1,175 for the destination charge. The Sienna comes with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive with seating for seven or eight.
The visible exterior changes from third- to fourth-generation Sienna are not as dramatic as might be expected, but they are there. An updated front fascia with wraparound headlights, accent lighting, dramatic profile lines and body sculpting, and a reworked rear fascia is evident.
Inside, the changes are clearer. Standard seating is for seven on the LE and XLE and eight on the XSE, Limited, and Platinum. A seven-seat option is available everywhere and that’s our preference, especially as comfortable captain’s chairs replace the middle-row bench seat.
The interior is ultra-modern, but not space-age flamboyant. A nifty bridge panel connects the lower dashboard with the center storage compartment, supplying a helpful open-storage compartment underneath. Toyota must have been listening to parents as the storage tray fixed to the bottom of the dashboard and running from the center stack to the right door is ideal for holding electronic devices and small toys. The rest of the cabin is like a treasure trove of storage areas – Toyota supplies up to 18 cupholders, depending on the trim. Find them. Count them. Use them.
We wish the middle seats were removable, but they aren’t. The third-row seat folds down or can be removed. Still, with some maneuverability, there is 101 cubic feet of storage space.
What’s the best thing about the new Sienna? A more accessible, comfortable, and useable third-row seat. Sure, it’s the ideal space for children, but this time that space is better suited for adults. That’s something to consider for growing families.
Safety & Tech
Every Sienna model comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) suite of driver-assist and safety features. This package includes automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is not part of this bundle, but it is also standard equipment. Take note of the top safety crash-test ratings too when considering this model.
Toyota equips the Sienna with a 9-inch touch-screen display, seven USB ports, a 6-speaker audio system, satellite radio, and smartphone compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Starting with the XLE trim and the Sienna gains two speakers. Navigation, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, Qi-compatible wireless charging, two 120-volt power outlets, and a head-up display are available. A family favorite is the available rear entertainment system with a drop-down 11.6-inch display and two headphones. It’s a must for those long road trips on “boring” interstates.
Toyota Sienna Performance
Gone is the previous V6 engine paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain combination was good for 296 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It also averaged just 21 mpg.
In its place are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission, up to three electric motors, and a battery pack. This arrangement supplies a maximum of 245 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. The drop-off in power is noticeable as is the huge increase in fuel economy: 36 mpg. And that’s not just on paper as we drove more than 260 miles and the fuel capacity needle was still registering half full when we were done.
Push the ignition button and you’ll be met with silence. Fortunately, the instrument panel awakens and the HVAC system hums as it pumps in the air. Move into gear and a low hum and the spin of the wheels is all you’ll hear until you press hard on the gas pedal. Only then does the engine come alive.
We’ve driven the current- and previous-generation Siennas and clearly see the differences. That said, the new model delivers a leisurely 0-60 mph run-up in about eight seconds or about a second slower than before. A smooth ride, light steering, decent handling, and firm braking are other attributes. The previous model’s 3,500-pound tow rating is unchanged.
As before, the Sienna offers an all-wheel-drive option. This time, however, it doesn’t rely on a connecting drivetrain to send power to the rear wheels. Instead, a third electric motor sits on the axle and receives computer inputs to control the wheels under certain conditions, such as on slippery roads. The other two motors turn the front wheels and send power to the battery pack and engine.
Toyota Sienna: Our Recommendation
With a starting price thousands of dollars higher than the competition, it is easy to look away from the Toyota Sienna. On closer inspection, the added cost is for the hybrid drivetrain as well as for a higher equipment level. The second-level XLE trim costs about $41,000, roughly matching the price of similarly equipped models from Chrysler, Honda, and Kia. Drive the Sienna yourself to see if the efficiency trumps its relative disadvantages. With higher fuel prices in place, it may prove a winner.
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