- Looks good, for a minivan
- Better handling than before
- Sliding second-row seat--or captain's chairs
- All-wheel drive on the options list
- More standard features for LE
- Second-row seats fold, but don't disappear
- Shy of the Chrysler minivan's ultimate features
- Expensive in Limited form
The Toyota Sienna has excellent power, safety, and seating, and only narrowly misses the class benchmarks in flexibility and gas mileage.
One of the few minivans still available at present, the Toyota Sienna, loses its base four-cylinder engine for 2013. The 2013 Sienna becomes an even more direct competitor to the Chrysler minivans and the Honda Odyssey this year, with more features in its most popular version.
Few of us shop for minivans based on style, but Toyota at least makes the effort to bring the Sienna into a modern flow. The front end shares the latest Toyota design cues, with a low grille that tapers upward softly into a roofline that does nothing to upset tradition--not like the Honda Odyssey's lightning-bolt side cue, or the Nissan Quest's ape of the Ford Flex. It's a tidy take, free of controversy, and full of utility, since the regular, rectangular shape plays out directly into vast interior space. The cockpit's styled with a bit of drama, and a bit too much grainy plastic, but it's organized with care.
There's no more four-cylinder engine, so all Siennas now come with a 3.5-liter V-6 with 266 horsepower, coupled to a six-speed automatic. Performance is brisk, but gas mileage dips overall with the loss of the four-cylinder, and even the six's city ratings have fallen by 1 mpg. Handling isn't quite as crisp as the Odyssey, but the Sienna's electric power steering and independent suspension are sorted out well, without much body roll. The SE version has slightly more direct feel, but it's a very subtle distinction to be drawn--one we think gets lost by most minivan shoppers.
At more than 200 inches long, and more than 78 inches wide, the Sienna's a big van. There's space everywhere, even in the third row. The front seats get a regal seating position, and even in the second row, a pair of airline-style reclining bucket seats are available. The basic bench is comfortable, with expanses of head and leg room--and it slides on an elongated track so that either second- or third-row leg room can be expanded. It also aids in loading passengers into the third row. The second-row seat can be removed entirely, but does not fold away into the floor--the Chrysler minivans' special trick. The third-row seat does fold flat, and with it stowed and the middle seats pushed forward, the Sienna has 150 cubic feet of cargo space.
Standard features include curtain airbags and stability control, and a rearview camera and Bluetooth are available, and blind-spot monitors are now standard on upper trims. All Siennas come with dual sliding side doors; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; a CD player and aux jack; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and three-zone climate control. Upscale versions add a power tailgate and power sliding side doors; steering-wheel audio controls; leather upholstery; heated front seats; a dual sunroof; and a huge 16.4-inch-wide LCD screen and a DVD player to keep the two back rows of passengers entertained. The screen even splits so that side can be dedicated to gaming, one to movies. A word of warning: one viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean, and you'll be hooked, or on the hook.
2013 Toyota Sienna
The classic one-box minivan shape doesn't find any new angles on the latest Sienna.
Minivans will not be the vehicles that inspire styling revolutions. The Toyota Sienna sticks with the rules of the game, its one-box shape sporting a touch or two of style, without touching off any flash mobs or civil disobedience. There's a tad more personality than in the prior version: from the side, the Sienna's growing ever closer to the Honda Odyssey, in the way its rear pillars boomerang into the tailgate, and the front end has something more like the Venza crossover's good looks. The Sienna SE gets its own front-end treatment and it does send a few subtle cues about its more sporty steering.
The latest Toyota design theme defines the Sienna's interior with a wide, sweeping arc that splits the cockpit into a driver side filled with controls and gauges, and a passenger zone with secondary knobs and buttons to govern ancillaries like climate control and audio. If anything it amplifies the sense of space inside the Sienna, as do slimmer seats and a thinner dash, Toyota says. Our main gripe with the cabin is that it was designed during an era when Toyota adopted some unusual horizontal plastic graining that looks dull and almost unfinished, and isn't helped by the matte woodgrain trim that's applied on more expensive models. Much more convincing are the Optitron bright-white gauges on pricey models that mimic the dials found on Lexus vehicles.
2013 Toyota Sienna
It's V-6 only this year, and the Sienna's strong performance comes with an all-wheel-drive option.
Talking about minivan performance? You're primarily talking about highway merging and off-the-line acceleration, even though Toyota's gone out of its way to breed an SE edition of its latest Sienna, specifically to appeal to people who have to have a minivan, but don't want to give up entirely on driving excitement.
What's missing this year from the Sienna performance portfolio is its former four-cylinder option. For the past two years we've thought the four was a good alternative to the optional V-6, since it kept the Sienna's price lower. It's gone for the 2013 model year, leaving the 3.5-liter V-6 and its 266 horsepower as the only engine offered. It's a good one, combined with a six-speed automatic for strong acceleration and fuel economy that's almost as good as the outgoing four. Mostly, we think, it's Toyota's need to install four-cylinders in other cars that brought about the change.
The latest Sienna carries over a straightforward MacPherson front strut and independent rear suspension. Electronic power steering is a new arrival, and it's fine in a vehicle like the Sienna, in which handling is a lower priority than space and fuel economy. While it's no sportscar, the Sienna has smooth ride motions and quick steering, making it nicely maneuverable in city driving.
A special SE edition gets tighter suspension tuning, big 19-inch wheels, and a lower body; it's a gamble that may not register with average minivan buyer, especially as it's a subtle difference from the XLE or Limited feel.
The Sienna is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, and itself weighs from 4,275 to 4,750 pounds. It's the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, which accounts for the top end of that weight range.
2013 Toyota Sienna
Comfort & Quality
The Sienna has huge interior room and fold-away third-row seats, but lacks the Chrysler minivans' disappearing second-row chairs.
Slightly larger than the last-generation model, and about as big as today's Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna is one of the largest minivans you can buy, in terms of interior volume and overall dimensions.
By the numbers, the Sienna rides on a 119.3-inch wheelbase, and is 200.2 inches long overall, and 78.2 inches wide. Total interior cargo volume: it's 150 cubic feet. That's big.
That makes the Sienna an eight-passenger van with enough space for at least five adults, and a configurable cabin that has a fold-away third-row seat and a maneuverable second-row seat (or seats), though it lacks the fold-away second-row chairs found in Chrysler's minivans.
In front, the Sienna has supportive, comfortable seats with lots of head and leg room. Most versions have standard power front seats, too.
The second row is where the Sienna distinguishes itself from most other minivans. The standard setup is a bench seat that slides to expand passenger or cargo space as needed. It also has a removable section that can be stored in the cargo area, to reveal a cupholder and tray--and space to walk through to the third-row seat. The second-row bench can also be swapped out for captain's chairs, or on the plushest models, lounge-style seats that recline like first-class airline chairs, down to the leg-cushion extenders and footrests.
Still, while it's possible to remove the second-row seats, they don't disappear into the floor. The Sienna is a reskin of the former model, and it wasn't designed to allow the middle seats to stow away in that way--a nifty trick formerly available on the Nissan Quest, and still offered in the utility champions, the Chrysler minivans.
The third-row seat actually has adult-sized room in all directions. It isn't that difficult to enter-and they fold almost flat into a deep well in the cargo area. With the second-row seats moved as far front as possible, the Sienna has 117.8 cubic feet of cargo room; with the second row removed and the third row folded, it will hold 150 cubic feet of cargo. Even behind the upright third-row seat, there's 39.1 cubic feet of space, almost twice as much storage room as the 2010 Ford Taurus' trunk. The Sienna also can carry an actual 4x8 sheet of plywood.
There's also plenty of small-item storage inside in the Sienna's console, twin gloveboxes, map and side pockets, and available cargo organizer.
The revamped interior suffers a bit in richness; interior materials and appointments feel a bit less refined compared to those of its competitors, in particular the horizontal grain on the dash and door caps. You won't open a vein, but you will notice a difference if you compare it to Aunt Barb's '96 Camry.
2013 Toyota Sienna
Crash tests have backed up the Sienna's safety, though the NHTSA hasn't updated this model year's scores.
The Toyota Sienna's been a star performer in crash tests, and it now offers some of the latest safety technology. It's not quite up to the level of the Chrysler minivans, though, and in some instances, its safety scores haven't yet been updated.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Toyota minivan an overall rating of four stars. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the Sienna a Top Safety Pick, with top 'good' ratings in all categories--although it hasn't yet been tested in the new small-overlap frontal test.
All Sienna minivans come with side curtain airbags that offer protection for all three rows of seating, as well as a driver-side knee airbag. A pre-collision protection system that preps the car for an imminent accident is offered on higher-level trims, as is dynamic cruise control. A rearview camera is now standard on the LE model and all models above it in the hierarchy, and front and rear parking sensors are standard on the Limited. Blind-spot monitors are now standard on the XLE and Limited and available on the SE, and they incorporate cross-traffic alerts, for backing out of parking spots more safely.
Visibility is excellent in the Sienna, and its upgrade rearview camera offers a 180-degree view.
2013 Toyota Sienna
Big LCD screens and lounge seats transform the Sienna into a plush family wagon, if it isn't quite as feature-laden as the Chrysler minivans.
While Chrysler continues to offer minivans priced with strong value in mind, Toyota's Sienna aims at a richer slice of the market, one with more features and a price tag that starts at about $27,000 this year.
For that, the base Sienna comes with a good list of standard equipment, including three rows of seating, with a fold-away third-row seat and side doors that slide manually; power windows, locks; and mirrors; three-zone air conditioning; remote keyless entry; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack.
The Sienna LE has added some of the equipment that had been standard in more expensive models last year. It now offers a USB port; Bluetooth with audio streaming; automatic climate control; power front seats; a power tailgate; power sliding side doors; a center console; sunshades for the rear seats; satellite radio; and steering-wheel audio and phone controls. The well-trimmed XLE gets leather upholstery; a sunroof; and heated front seats.
The mildly sporty Sienna SE has specific suspension tuning, and also gets 19-inch wheels; sport trim; LED taillights; and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
At the most expensive end of the lineup, the Sienna Limited takes the XLE's features and adds a dual sunroof; overhead console; a sliding center console; second-row "lounge seats" and a power-folding third-row seat, as well as a JBL audio system.
Options on various models include DVD navigation, with Toyota's Entune mobile-app connectivity suite; a Dual View rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an immense 16.4-inch wide pair of screens; and premium audio. On a recent drive, we watched the latest Star Trek movie on the Sienna's widescreen system; trust us, you'll want it.
2013 Toyota Sienna
With its four-cylinder no more, the Sienna falls behind the Odyssey in the gas-mileage derby.
Toyota used to stand alone in offering a four-cylinder engine in its Sienna minivan, but it's been dropped for the 2013 model year, leaving the minivan with only V-6 power and as a result, with lower net fuel economy.
The V-6 earns EPA-rated fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway, in front-drive form. That's competitive with the minivans from Nissan and Chrysler, but is outgunned by the top versions of the Honda Odyssey by a few miles per gallon, at 19/28 mpg.