The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a complete redesign and exclusively powered as a gasoline-electric hybrid
BY MARK MAYNARD
You can fit just about anything in a minivan — except an ego. These three-row people movers are the most efficient modes of transportation, yet ownership has been traumatized ever since the damning label of “Soccer Mom Mobile” was applied. It nearly killed the segment. Mention of the word brings polarized responses, like “hell-no never” to “make way for the welcome wagon.”
To spackle over the crazed aversion, manufacturers have long tried to offer sporty variants, which were usually received with a shrug and “Meh.” Anybody who wanted a van, didn’t need it to be cladded-up and those who didn’t want a van would not be tempted by cosmetic enhancements.
So those carmakers with struggling minivans sales dumped them, including Ford and GM. Today, there are just four 2021 minivan choices: the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona (soon to be replaced by the Carnival) and today’s tester, the Toyota Sienna.
Toyota’s sculpted redesign of its 2021 Sienna makes for a more credible sporty variant in the new XSE model. Whether for minivan-hating parents or their children, the Sienna is a big toy box of possibilities, and now a greener choice.
Pricing for the 2021 Toyota Sienna
The first Sienna went on sale in the United States as a 1998 model and is now in its fourth generation. It has been designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S. since it debuted.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a complete redesign and exclusively powered as a gasoline-electric hybrid, with optional all-wheel drive and seating for seven or eight.
It is sold in five trim levels of LE, XLE, XSE, Limited and Platinum. Starting prices range from $35,635 for the eight-seat, front-drive LE to $51,710 for the seven-seat Platinum AWD. Pricing includes the $1,175 freight charge from Princeton, Ind.
Some XLE models and the XSE, Limited and Platinum are seven-seat models and feature the super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, and the Limited and Platinum FWD models have ottomans.
Electronic on-demand AWD is just a $760 option.
The XSE Plus package ($1,000) adds wireless phone charging, black roof rails, 12-speaker JBL audio, 9-inch touch screen and dynamic navigation with 3-year trial and connected services.
Pricing incentives for APR, cash and lease.
Hybrid-related components that require repairs to correct defects in materials or workmanship are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles from original date of first use when sold as new. The hybrid battery is covered for 10-years/150,000-miles and is transferrable across ownership.
The new-vehicle warranty includes 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; and 2-years/25,000-miles ToyotaCare, free factory scheduled services and 24/7 roadside assistance.
Here’s how Toyota tried to take the minivan out of the styling:
• A speedy pillar at the rear cabin is dynamically angled forward;
• Thin bands of LED lighting at the taillight flow from the body to the rear to create a signature impression;
• Integrated black taillight canard looks cool but also improves aerodynamics;
• Sculpted tailgate with an integrated spoiler is made possible by a molded resin process.
How does the 2021 Toyota Sienna drive?
No tachometer, no wedgie-inducing front seats, no problem.
As a father now graduated from child-rearing years, I always liked testing minivans, and not just because my two charges ran to do homework in the van.
It’s the view from the inside out that mattered — not that I might be judged a “soccer dad,” though my step-daughter was a brutally effective club soccer player.
Ride quality in the XSE is slightly sport-tuned but never harsh or pitchy. There is good driver connectivity between the steering input, braking response and acceleration.
The front-drive XSE has 20-inch Michelin Primacy all-season tires, P235/50; AWD models get 18-inch tires, P235/60. Its exterior appearance is somewhat sportified by dark 20-inch split five-spoke wheels and aggressive front and rear bumpers.
Despite the Sienna’s 17-foot-length, it drives “small” with a high seating position, low step-in height and big windows, with privacy glass behind the front row. Driver sightlines are open across the hood and over the shoulder and the turning circle is refreshingly modest at 38.2 feet, though you’ll have to swing a little wider when steering into the parking stall.
Four-wheel disc brakes work without regen-grab common to some of Toyota other hybrid models. Ventilated discs front and rear are towing capable (up to 3,500 pounds) with 12.9-inch discs front, 12.5 inches rear.
The Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) system includes a pre-collision system with daytime and low-light vehicle and pedestrian detection, plus daytime bicyclist detection. Automatic braking is activated by PCS if the driver does not react in time in certain emergency situations. The system also can detect a vehicle ahead, a bicyclist or pedestrian in low light situations.
Other standard equipment on all trim levels are 10 air bags, stability and traction controls, brake-force distribution, brake assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package of technologies allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving, while keeping both hands on the wheel. Keeping the Sienna on the correct track is enhanced all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, lane tracing assist, front cross-traffic alert and pedestrian alert.
The system capably keeps the car centered in the lane, but like most systems it will randomly shut off, sometimes due to variable light and road-surface conditions. This tpe of safety syystem will be beneficial for those drivers who have daily commutes in heavy traffic. It is an extra six eyes on the road to watch for less attentive drivers.
The Sienna’s gasoline-electric hybrid system integrates a 176-horsepower, direct-injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors, a front-drive 134 kW (180-hp) permanent-magnet synchronous and a 40-kW rear.
Toyota’s use of a nickel-metal hydride battery pack isn’t as technologically high-powered as a lithium-ion battery pack, but I couldn’t tell a difference, it just works. With 288-volts, the battery pack lets the Sienna roll for blocks on silent battery power at low speeds or creeping in traffic. This is the same well-tested system Toyota has used for years.
With a combined power of 245-hp, there was no lag in launch power and it will cruise comfortably at highway speeds. The electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) has a sequential shift mode, but I didn’t feel the need. The CVT kept the power easily controlled under my right foot.
Official fuel economy ratings are 36 mpg city, 36 highway and 36 mpg combined for front-drive and 35/36/35 mpg AWD, using the recommended 87 octane. In a test week of 142 miles, my average fuel economy ranged from 27.5 to 29.8 mpg, and it was still building when I had to exit the freeway.
The entire cabin of the 2021 Toyota Sienna is well-soundproofed and quiet rolling with the Michelins.
Interior storage opportunities are a vertical ecosystem of tiers, trays and cubbies. In all, there are seven USBs, six of them for charging, 18 cup holders, onboard Wi-Fi and the optional Driver Easy Speak, which is essentially a built-in PA system that carries the driver’s voice through the audio system to the rear seats — and the source of the disturbance.
The broad span of the instrument panel has a step-down shelf, handy for the passenger to lay a phone and the door panels have spacious bottle storage and a shallow tray. Toyota says the unique Bridge Console is key to allocating personalized space to the driver and front passenger. Positioned high between the driver and passenger, the bridge connects the instrument panel to the center armrest. Beneath the bridge is a large open area to stow out of sight larger items such as a purse or bag. But the bridge takes away the once-familiar step-through for parents to slip into the back seat for child care or discipline.
The shift console is cleverly designed to integrate storage and cup holders, of which there are four. A cutout for the two smaller cup holders nearest to the driver’s elbow are made dual purpose with a tip-back lid that leaves a 6-inch-wide by 1.24-inch slot for a phone, errand list or note pad. One of the larger cup holders nearest the wireless charging pad and a charging USB also integrates a phone-size slot.
There is deep storage in the armrest console (12 inches to the bottom) with a pair of charging USBs. The space is handy for holding the pair of wireless headphones for the optional rear-seat entertainment system.
Back seats and cargo
Kick-activated sliding doors and the back seat step-in height of 18 inches is child-reasonable. There is nearly 3 feet of NBA-class legroom provided by the super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, which also recline. Manual sunshades in the second row are assets as are two more charging USBs.
And there is another pair of charging USBs in the third row, which is a Split & Stow design. It takes a hefty tug to stow or restore the seats and the flat area when the seats are stowed has no covering so dog crates or other such materials might not ride flat without bolstering.
Woodland Special Edition
Adventurers will be able to embrace their nomad lifestyle this fall with the Sienna Woodland Special Edition. Pricing has not been announced but is expected to start at around $45,000, including all-wheel drive and raised suspension.
Special features include:
• 1500-watt capable power outlet (to power most household items for a day trip or an overnight camping excursion);
• Tow hitch with a 3,500-pound trailer weight;
• Roof rails with crossbars;
• Exclusive Cement exterior color;
• Black sport trimmed seats with unique stitch color;
• 18-inch wheels;
• Dark chrome-colored accents;
• Black badging;
• Navigation with 12-speaker JBL 1200-watt audio system.
Other standard Woodland Edition equipment includes super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, Split & Stow 3rd Row Seat, kick-activated sliding doors, heated front driver and passenger seats, sunshades in the second row and a total of seven USB ports across all three rows.
And with every sale, Toyota will make a $250 donation to the National Environmental Education Foundation. The effort will be a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000 to support NEEF’s mission to make the environment more accessible, relatable and connected to people’s lives.
Why buy the 2021 Toyota Sienna?
With the substantial baggage most drivers drag along with them every day, a rational society might think that a minivan would be a top seller. But minivans are like green vegetables — we know should eat more of them, but for many it is the sexiness of SUV fast food that wins the sale.
The Sienna is a green and very inviting for an extended road trip. My average fuel economy of 28-plus-mpg was impressive, though I never transported a van full of people.
Its exterior styling is attractive and somewhat eye-catching on the road … for a minivan. But it is the inside where this minivan far exceeds any utility of an SUV or its fuel economy or ease of entry — and all that with a tow rating of 3,500 pounds.
2021 Toyota Sienna XSE FWD
Body style: Full-size 7- to 8-seat front- or AWD minivan
Engine: 176-hp, direct-injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; 176 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm
Electric motors: 134 kW (180 hp) permanent-magnet synchronous front; 40 kW rear
Hybrid battery pack: Nickel metal hydride; 288 volts; 40 cells, 7.2-volts per cell; 650 volts maximum
Combined net power: 245-hp
Transmission: eCVT with sequential shift mode
Fuel economy: 36/36/36 (FWD) 35/36/35 (AWD) city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
Fuel tank: 18 gal.
Cargo space: 33.5-75.2 cu. ft. behind 2nd/3rd rows
Front head/leg room: 40.1/40.3 in.
2nd row head/leg room: 39.3/39.9 in.
3rd row head/leg room: 37.4/38.7 in.
Length/wheelbase: 204.1/120.5 in.
Curb weight: 4,675 lbs.
Turning circle: 39.2 ft. FWD (20-inch wheels); 38.3 ft. AWD (18-inch wheels)
Tow capacity: 3,500 lbs.
Coefficient of drag: 0.28
Safety features include: 10 air bags, Toyota’s Star Safety System (stability and traction controls), brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart-stop technology, blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
• Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, includes pre-collision system with daytime and low-light vehicle and pedestrian detection, plus daytime bicyclist detection; full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control; lane departure alert with steering assist; automatic high-beam headlights; lane tracing assist; and road sign assist
Base price: $42,000, including the $1,175 freight charge. Price as tested $46,843
Options on test vehicle: Ruby Pearl metallic paint $425; Rear seat entertainment system with 2 wireless headphones $1,415; XSE Plus package $1,000; 1,500-watt power inverter $300; Rear bumper applique $69; Floor and cargo mat package $294; wheel locks $65
Where assembled: Princeton, Ind.
Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles basic bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; 10-years/150,000-miles hybrid battery; 8-years/100,000-miles hybrid system; 2-years/25,000-miles ToyotaCare, free factory scheduled services and 24/7 roadside assistance