- A handsome minivan
- Handling above par for class
- Choice in second row: bench or chair
- Still offers all-wheel drive
- Base model now V-6
- Second-row seats slide, fold, don't stow
- Gets expensive quickly
The 2016 Toyota Sienna posts some of the best gas-mileage and crash-test scores among minivans; only the Chrysler vans are more flexible.
Minivans aren't the most drool-worthy vehicles on the road—they're the ultimate family vehicles, and everything gives way (or should) to the concerns of shuttling up to eight passengers in ultimate safety and comfort.
The Toyota Sienna is one of the shrunken set of minivans that does a great job at both of those tasks, while posting at least average scores in the basics of pleasing drivers' eyes and hands. It's good at saving fuel; great at carrying passengers and very good at hauling cargo; it's proven very safe, and over time, very reliable. To top it all off, it's at least the equal of the Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona in seating flexibility and driving engagement—though all still lose that scrimmage to Chrysler's pair of people-haulers, the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Pacifica.
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. For 2015, most models received a new grille and updated headlights and taillights. A revised interior includes easier-to-operate controls in some areas, as well as new gauges and larger center screens.
All Siennas come with a 3.5-liter V-6 with 266 horsepower, coupled to a 6-speed automatic. Performance is brisk, although gas mileage has dipped overall in the past several years with the loss of the base 4-cylinder engine, while it rose on the rival Honda Odyssey. 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, although to be fair it's a very subtle distinction to be drawn—one we think gets missed by most minivan shoppers. The Sienna does hold the distinction of being the only minivan still available with all-wheel drive.
Minivans are all about space and functionality. 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 (now only on front-drive Limited models). The basic bench is comfortable, with expansive 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 safety features include curtain airbags and stability control, while Bluetooth is available, and blind-spot monitors are now standard on upper trims. A rearview camera is now standard across all trim levels. There's also an additional airbag, located in the front seat cushion, to bring the total to a class-leading eight. And Toyota has increased the number of LATCH anchor points from three to four. Crash-test scores have been good—just a star or two shy of perfect.
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 Blu-Ray player to keep the two back rows of passengers entertained.
The front-wheel-drive version is rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined—competitive with Dodge and Kia, but behind the Honda Odyssey's 19/28/22 mpg rating. Opt for all-wheel drive, and the Sienna's mileage ratings fall to 16/23/19 mpg, down 2 mpg on either cycle compared to the front-driver.
2016 Toyota Sienna
A mild update last year hasn't turned the Sienna into an automotive ugly duckling—or a four-wheeled sex symbol.
The Sienna's mild updates for the 2015 model year haven't transformed it into a glamour wagon. It's a straight-up minivan, a two-box shape that makes only a concession or two to styling drama.
The modern Sienna's interior divides the driver and passenger spaces with its wide, sweeping dash—leaving the gauges and the controls on the driver's side, while the passenger gets access to the climate and audio systems. 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 wood grain 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.
Inside, the Sienna's center dash layout has been revised to house larger screens, and the gauge cluster is all new as well, getting its own set of new screens between the gauges; lower trim levels get smaller black-and-white units, while the top models get color displays that take up a little more room.
As for the exterior, the overall shape is about the same, as it has to be to each the goal of spacious family hauling, with the details tweaked to keep things just fresh enough. Once again, the Sienna's SE model is the sportiest option—among vans, anyway.
In front, LE, XLE, and Limited models get a new grille design, a finned affair that bridges the gap between new LED headlights for SE and Limited models. All models but the SE get new taillights with flowing interior elements, while the SE retains its clear lenses.
2016 Toyota Sienna
It's the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive; otherwise, the Sienna's performance is undistinguished.
There's nothing radical or innovative about the way the Toyota Sienna drives, which means it's perfectly suited for minivan drivers.
For minivans, the discussion about performance is coupled to safety—is it quick enough to accelerate to highway speeds, nimble enough to steer away from accidents? On those fronts the Sienna succeeds, though it doesn't venture much further in terms of driver satisfaction, even in the sport-tuned SE model.
In the past, the Sienna has offered a 4-cylinder engine option, which we felt was a good alternative for drivers using only a few of its eight possible seats. Now, the Sienna only comes with a 3.5-liter V-6, and that's perfectly fine. With 266 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic, the powertrain's on point with its chief rivals, the Chrysler vans and the Odyssey.
It performs pleasantly, with a muted engine note and moderately strong acceleration—though it might feel stronger if the Sienna didn't weigh from 4,275 to 4,750 pounds. We'd be concerned about pulling a maximum load of passengers and hitting the Sienna's tow rating of 3,500 pounds, but otherwise, the V-6 provides ample, smooth power.
The latest Sienna carries over a straightforward MacPherson front strut and independent rear suspension, although subtle tuning changes as well as new welds in the cowl area (said to increase torsional rigidity) should improve ride and refinement, as well as handling at the limit. Electronic power steering is a new arrival, and we found it to be just fine here in the way it loads up and tracks at highway speeds. While it's no sports car, the Sienna has smooth ride motions and quick steering, making it nicely maneuverable in city driving.
The SE edition gets tighter suspension tuning, big 19-inch wheels, and a lower body; it's a gamble that may not register with the average minivan buyer, especially as it's a subtle difference from the feel of the XLE or Limited.
2016 Toyota Sienna
Comfort & Quality
Passenger comfort tops cargo capacity with the latest Sienna.
With the Sienna, Toyota has one of the biggest minivans on the market. It's also one of the most plush and most comfortable, though its seating system leaves it a little shy in ultimate cargo flexibility.
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. It 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.
Comfortable and supportive seats are fitted for front passengers in the Sienna, and most versions come with power controls. Those front seats are surrounded by a newly contoured dash—updated for the 2015 model year— puts the climate controls nearly 3 inches closer to the driver. It has bigger knobs and buttons, too, and there's a new configurable display set between the Sienna's gauges to display ancillary information.
Between the front passengers, the Sienna also has plenty of small-item storage—in its twin glove boxes, in its deep center console, in map and side pockets, and in an available cargo organizer.
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 front-drive Limited model, 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 update 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 Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.
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. The Sienna also can carry an actual 4-by-8 sheet of plywood—close to the Chrysler vans' full-size-sofa hauling capacity.
2016 Toyota Sienna
With a standard rearview camera and excellent crash-test scores, the Toyota Sienna is a top safety performer.
The Sienna has always been a star performer—and now it has some of the most modern safety tech available on the market.
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. New last year was a front-passenger seat cushion airbag, which brings the inflatable total to eight. A forward-collision warning 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 all models as of 2015, while front and rear parking sensors are standard on the Limited. Blind-spot monitors are 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.
The IIHS has called the Sienna a Top Safety Pick in the past, with top "Good" ratings in all categories. However, the Sienna has only earned an "Acceptable" rating on the agency's notoriously difficult small-overlap crash test—which simulates striking a tree or a lamppost—that disqualifies it from Top Safety Pick status.
The NHTSA gives the Toyota minivan an overall rating of five stars—as apparently, a very strong performance in that test overcomes its four-star frontal and rollover ratings.
Toyota has also added another LATCH connector location for child and booster seats—adding up to a total of four positions now in the Sienna.
Visibility is excellent in the Sienna, and its upgraded rearview camera offers a 180-degree view.
2016 Toyota Sienna
Top Sienna minivans have a luxury-car ambience—and are priced accordingly.
With a base price of just about $30,000, the Toyota Sienna is a relatively expensive family hauler, but one that comes equipped with all the expected features, and a few nice touches that distinguish it from rivals.
One of those features is all-wheel drive. The Sienna is the only minivan to offer the drive system; it's an option on the top three trim levels.
The Sienna comes in one of five different flavors: L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited. Base versions don't skimp on features, either. They get standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; three-zone air conditioning; keyless entry; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; automatic headlights; a rearview camera; blind-spot monitors; a touch screen AM/FM/CD audio system with an auxiliary jack; and three rows of seating, with a fold-away third-row seat and side doors that slide manually.
Opt for the Sienna SE, and you'll also get 19-inch wheels; LED taillights; specific suspension tuning; and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The Sienna LE offers an upgrade to an Entune audio system featuring a USB port and 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.
New for 2016, the Entune connectivity system adds smartphone-driven navigation and Siri EyesFree.
The well-trimmed XLE gets leather upholstery; a sunroof; and heated front seats.
The Sienna Limited is the most expensive model. It 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. The sliding console and lounge seats are no longer included on all-wheel-drive models.
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, Blu-ray, HDMI, and SD-Card compatibility; and premium audio.
2016 Toyota Sienna
Gas mileage is lower than in the Honda Odyssey, but it's competitive with other minivans.
The Toyota Sienna earns competitive fuel economy numbers, even as many in the class are a generation ahead.
The Sienna offers a single powertrain, like its rivals. However, it also makes all-wheel drive an option, which makes it the only minivan that can be so equipped.
The front-wheel-drive version is rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined—competitive with Kia and Dodge, but behind the Honda Odyssey's 19/28/22 mpg rating.
Opt for all-wheel drive, and the Sienna's mileage ratings fall to 16/23/19 mpg, down 2 mpg on either cycle compared to the front-driver.
Toyota still has no plans to add its Hybrid Synergy Drive to the Sienna. It's now the only Toyota family vehicle to skip the system, now that the RAV4 is adding it for the 2016 model year.