2021 Chrysler Pacifica vs 2021 Toyota Sienna: Compare Minivans

December 21, 2020

Despite the unabated rise in popularity of SUVs, the minivan is the ultimate suburban utility vehicle. With seating for up to eight, cargo volume like a box van, incomparably easy sliding doors, and versatile seating arrangements, the minivan lacks only the powertrain options of SUVs. No longer. 

For years, if you wanted an all-wheel drive minivan, the Toyota Sienna was the only choice. Now the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica puts power to all four wheels. At the same time, if you wanted a hybrid minivan, the plug-in hybrid version of the Chrysler Pacifica was the only choice. Now the 2021 Toyota Sienna comes standard as a hybrid and gets an EPA-rated 35 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

The decision between the two minivans has never been harder, and the outcome has never been better. But which one is best and why?

The 2021 Chrysler Pacific scores higher with a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10 compared to a 6.6 for the 2021 Sienna. We expect the redesigned Sienna’s rating to improve when federal and independent agencies complete crash testing. 

Despite the close ratings, the minivans excel in different areas. After a day of testing all-wheel-drive variants of both on a cold rainy day in the Chicago suburbs, Kirk Bell, senior editor of Motor Authority, and I found each van compelling but for different reasons.   

Style and comfort

Every minivan appears in need of some cross-fit or a corset, but either of those things would ruin their jolly interior room. 

The 2021 Sienna takes on more sculpted shapes from the Toyota Highlander, such as flared rear haunches. The stout front end and broad lower grille borrow elements of Toyota’s trucks as much as its three-row SUVs but there’s just no getting around that block of cheese rear end.

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

The Pacifica takes a sportier approach; from the rear wheel forward, the 2021 Pacifica looks as good as the better-looking SUVs out there, especially with available 20-inch wheels. 

The high-end look carries over to the inside, which is what really matters here. 

“The Pacifica appeals for its upscale feel, with contrast stitching and piping on the seats, a two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a spate of soft-touch surfaces,” Bell said.

The power driver’s seat in the Pacifica includes an armrest that is part of the seat; in the Sienna the armrest is part of the console and the other armrest is on the door. It can make for awkward driving positions, whereas the Pacifica has more road-trip ready comfort. 

The Sienna has a convenient dashboard storage shelf that runs from the center stack to the passenger’s outside vent. It’s ideal for phones and the detritus of family life. A two-tiered center console adds more storage space, but the utilitarian Sienna can’t match the premium fit and finish of the Pacifica.

The Pacifica’s versatility shines with second-row Stow ’n Go seats that collapse and stow into the floor, though it does take some finagling. It’s offered on all-wheel-drive models, as well. Access in and out of the third row is made easy for little or big hands with pull straps down low and firm latches up top. The fixed position of the Pacifica’s second row limits third-row space, though the third rows in both minivans recline for increased comfort.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

The Sienna’s second-row seats offer a different advantage: They can slide up to 25 inches (and can be equipped with footrests) that make accessing the third row much easier. The Sienna has more seating room, and much more leg room to comfortably fit two adults in every row.

The problem for many Sienna fans is the second row can no longer be removed because of second-row airbags. However, the seat bottoms flip up, and the seats move up flush against the front seat backs.

Folding down the Sienna’s third row doesn’t require much finagling. The handles on the 60/40 split seat can be pulled out with one hand and dropped into a cargo bay deeper by one cubic foot than in the Pacifica. The seat housing is visible, whereas the Pacifica is covered to appease the obsessive compulsives among us. Top trims of the Pacifica have power-reclining seats that take a little longer but can’t be beat for convenience.

From the rear, the Sienna beats the Pacifica with a lower load floor. The Pacifica’s Stow ’n Go seats really maximize the space, however, delivering 140 cubic feet with both rows folded flat compared to 101 cubes in the Sienna.

Advantage: Pacifica, but only if the second row seats won’t be in use all the time.    

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna

Performance and efficiency

The 2021 Toyota Sienna gets the advantage here for handling and efficiency. Even with all-wheel drive, the Sienna’s EPA-rated 35 mpg combined is remarkable for a vehicle this size. The Pacifica gets 20 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, and that difference would cost owners an extra $650 in fuel costs annually over the Sienna, according to the EPA. 

The Pacifica can be had as a plug-in hybrid but only with front-wheel drive and costing about $7,000 more than the base Sienna. The 32-mile electric range satisfies the distance of most everyday needs before plugging it into the garage overnight. Without electric juice, it gets a very good 30 mpg combined. 

The Pacifica’s 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 springs off the line quicker, but the Sienna handles better. 

“The Sienna feels more buttoned down through corners,” Bell said. “It's nose tucks in better and it tracks more truly. By comparison, the Pacifica wallows in turns and wafts on the highway, though it's still well controlled.”

The Sienna feels more assured and handles with more confidence. Its 2.5-liter inline-4 and its 1.9-kwh battery powering an electric motor make 245 hp. Under light loads it can accelerate in EV mode up to about 15 mph, but under heavier throttle the gruff engine strains to meet demand. A rear motor on the rear axle sends up to 80% of the torque to the rear axle, but in both minivans you need to give up a little grip before the AWD systems kick in. 

Advantage: Sienna. 

Features and safety

The Sienna’s standard safety features outperform the Pacifica’s, but we don’t have official crash-test data to see how each minivan holds up under duress. The Sienna comes with 10 airbags to the Pacifica’s eight, but both come standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic high beams. The Pacifica adds blind-spot monitors, while both offer optional surround-view camera systems and cabin cameras. Safety is a draw until crash testing is completed on both.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition

2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition

2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition

2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

The Pacifica comes with more features that look, act, and feel better. The centerpiece is a 10.1-inch touchscreen that’s easy to use and has excellent natural voice commands. The standard setup in the Sienna is an improved 9.0-inch touchscreen, but it still feels older. Both vans come standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility, and the options range from home entertainment centers and vacuums to a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon system in the Pacifica and a refrigerator in the Sienna. 

Advantage: Pacifica.

At $36,540, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica starts about $900 more than the Sienna, but it can climb to nearly $55,000 in the luxurious Pinnacle trim. The Sienna Platinum tops out under $52,000 and has lower annual fuel costs. I prefer the finish of the Pacifica, Bell prefers the dynamics  of the Sienna. We agree that you can’t go wrong with either.


Summary

7.2
Expert Rating
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is ready for anything your family may throw at it, from crumbs and half-eaten gummy bears to winter travel.
7.0
Expert Rating
With a 36-mpg hybrid powertrain for the entire lineup, the 2021 Toyota Sienna offers a mashup of swagger and sustainability.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
A new, larger grille this year is paired with striking LED lighting at the rear to cement the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica’s status as the most stylish minivan on the market.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
A meticulously sculpted exterior brings a new twist to a familiar profile, and a detail-oriented interior takes care of all the little things.
Read More

Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
A new all-wheel-drive option helps expand the plush Chrysler Pacifica’s appeal against SUVs and crossovers.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Toyota Sienna isn’t especially quick, but it rides and handles with a sophistication you won’t find from SUVs.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
Short of an Airbus A320, there may be no better way to transport passengers than in a 2021 Chrysler Pacifica.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The cabin of the 2021 Toyota Sienna has as many storage ideas as your nearby IKEA, and it’s as accommodating for a double date as for a family vacation.
Read More

Safety

8.0
Expert Rating
Newly standard safety tech this year makes the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica an even better choice for families.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Sienna has the right features and the right crash test scores.
Read More

Features

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a premium van that can come with a hefty price tag.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Toyota Sienna comes with a wide range of features that make this van a pleasant, productive, entertaining place for driver and passengers alike.
Read More

Fuel Economy

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is fairly thrifty in standard form and remarkably frugal as a plug-in hybrid.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Toyota Sienna goes nearly double the number of miles on a gallon versus last year’s model and has the highest mpg of any minivan.
Read More

MSRP

from $35,820
from $34,460

Invoice

from $27,333
from $31,876

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

22
36

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.6 L
Gas/Electric I-4, 2.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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