2021 Toyota Sienna Proves a Compelling, Efficient SUV Alternative
Redesigned minivan brings new tech, added convenience, and comes exclusively as a hybrid
You might say that the 2021 Toyota Sienna is all-in on hybridization. That's because there's no longer a gas-only version available. The front- and all-wheel-drive versions of Toyota’s popular family mover come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine and an electronic continuously variable transmission. This combination promises impressive fuel-economy numbers, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, and it may be one way that the Sienna truly distinguishes itself as a minivan in an increasingly SUV world.
With families opting for SUVs, Toyota has seen sales of the Sienna take a nosedive the past few years. Competitors, the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey, also have seen fewer sales. By moving to partial electric power and delivering gains in fuel economy, Toyota aims to keep buyers happy, and the company might even siphon minivan fans from other brands. Available AWD also distinguishes the Sienna and helps make the case for it as an SUV alternative.
We rented a Sienna XLE from Toyota before it went on sale. Below are our early impressions.
You don’t climb into the Sienna as much as you step in. The low door sill, combined with wide, tall door openings, make it a snap to gracefully get into or out of the van. Accessing the second row is even easier, given the giant expanse of foot and leg space, and even slipping into the smaller third-row seat isn’t difficult at all.
One word kept coming up when discussing the Sienna’s interior: clean. The layout is very straightforward, with the various controls within easy reach for drivers no matter how they position the seat. There are comfortable, prominent armrests on the sides of the center console, and a deep storage space between them. There’s additional storage and cup holders in the center console near the gear selector, as well as a small shelf under the infotainment screen where the optional wireless charging pad is located.
It starts with the traditional gear selector, which seems to be on the endangered-features list at many automakers, and gets better from there. The large 9-inch touch screen in our XLE trim is ringed by physical buttons to hop from task to task, and there are knobs for both volume and tuning—a big plus in our book. The climate system controls are in their own dedicated spot below the infotainment screen, meaning there’s no reason to have to go deep into menus just to make a change.