The Car Connection Toyota Sienna Overview
The Toyota Sienna is a minivan that can seat up to 8, accommodate all the needs of a busy family, and handle plenty of spilled Cheerios. As the needs and appeal of minivan owners have evolved, it has—into a more stylish vehicle that can just as easily fill in for a parents' night out, or a guys' weekend.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna distinguishes itself as a hybrid getting 36 mpg combined, and is available with all-wheel drive.
MORE: Read our 2021 Toyota Sienna review
The new Toyota Sienna
The fourth-generation Toyota Sienna is a hybrid minivan capable of an estimated 36-mpg combined. All-wheel drive is optional across the lineup of LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum.
The redesigned minivan looks less like a minivan from the outside, and if the rear end were lopped off it might pass for a crossover SUV. But the boxy end is what makes it so good at hauling up to eight passengers and all their gear. The Sienna has a pair of power sliding doors and a third-row seat stows under the floor when not needed. It doesn't offer a similar stow-away feature for the second row like the Chrysler Pacifica, but the second row slides all the way forward and tilts to help make more of the otherwise flat floor.
The simplified cabin features a 9.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, a clean horizontal design that evokes spaciousness, and generous storage areas. The center point of the interior design is a new "bridge console" that brings two levels of storage and usefulness to the space in front of the center console; and a full-width dash shelf helps provide space for smaller items.
It's powered by a combined 243-horsepower hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine paired to two motors in front-wheel drive. A separate motor mounted on the rear axle helps the all-wheel drive system and removes the driveshaft tunnel that ran down the middle of previous Siennas. That makes the interior even roomier, and capable of towing 3,500 pounds. All the while, ride and handling of the Sienna is top-notch—better-coordinated than an SUV, with a quiet cabin and good maneuverability and sightlines.
Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic high beams, a rear-seat reminder, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts. Standard convenience features include power sliding doors and windows; Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility; seven USB ports; up to 18 cupholders. Options range from a built-in vacuum to a small refrigerator in the center console.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna goes on in November 2020.
Toyota introduced the Sienna as a more conventional minivan offering in the late '90s. It replaced the egg-shaped Previa, which had a mid-engine, rear-drive design that resulted in strange packaging. The Sienna came on the scene in 1998 with front-wheel drive and an interior layout that more closely aped that of the segment's leaders. That model shared underpinnings with the Camry sedan, as does the model to this day that in combination with production located in the U.S., brought costs down.
Initially, the Sienna used the same powertrain as the Camry V-6—a 194-hp 3.0-liter, replaced after several years by an even smoother, more flexible 210-hp version. These first-generation Siennas have proven reliable, but Toyota hadn't yet found its way to the front of the pack; seating was definitely a step behind the Chrysler minivans of the time, and the third row had to be lifted away rather than folding flat, and the interiors were quite drab. A lot of shoppers who are intimidated with the immense size and weight of newer minivans might find these Siennas just right. Side airbags and stability control became available in 2001, so with the stronger engine, too, the 2001-2003 models are the pick of this bunch.
For 2004, Toyota introduced a redesigned and considerably larger Sienna. With a 230-hp (or 215-hp), 3.3-liter V-6 and 5-speed automatic transmission, this Sienna delivered performance that was about the same as the model before it, though the 266-hp, 3.5-liter engine introduced for 2007 gave the van more confidence for passing and highway hauling. But this Sienna didn't have a lot of charisma or style, and near the end of its life it was looking quite outdated next to some rival models. Interior materials were also panned for being a bit drab and plasticky, once again, on all but the top XLE and Limited models.
These vans came well-equipped, though buyers had to move up to the higher trims to get items like power sliding doors, the power-folding third-row seat, and the power tailgate. While LE models came with a bench in the second row, XLE and XLE Limited models came with twin captain's chairs. Options included front and rear parking sensors, a JBL audio system, and laser-guided cruise control. Toyota made side airbags standard for 2006.
The third-generation Sienna went on sale in the spring of 2010 for the 2011 model year. About the same size (and a little heavier) than the version that preceded it, the Sienna was powered by a 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, with a 6-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive; Toyota also offered a 187-hp, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine in 2011 and 2012, but discontinued it in 2013.
Up until 2020, the Sienna was unique among minivans in offering optional all-wheel drive.
Toyota gave the Sienna a mild update for 2015. Changes include reworked grilles and lighting elements on some models, as well as tweaks for the interior. The powertrain menu remains the same, with a standard V-6 and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Toyota has made some chassis improvements, including stiffening the structure, and massaged the body to improve aerodynamics slightly but the changes didn't affect the EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway for front-wheel-drive models. The 2015 model also earned the IIHS' "Good" scores in all but the new small front offset test, where it scored an "Acceptable" rating. Its five-star overall rating from the NHTSA carries over.
For 2017, Toyota improved the Sienna's powertrain and efficiency with an uprated direct-injection version of its 3.5-liter V-6 (that now makes 296 hp) and an 8-speed automatic. Apple CarPlay was added to the lineup for 2019 and can be retrofitted to the 2018 Sienna. No changes were made to the Sienna for 2020.