So much has been written about the demise of a minivan over the past decade, but here we are in 2021. The four main minivans (Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, and Chrysler Pacifica) have survived and are doing quite well. Whenever we spend time with a minivan, we come out questioning why these are not more popular and the answer leads back to styling, fuel economy, and the lack of all-wheel drive. Toyota must have taken note of this when redesigning the all-new fourth generation Sienna and this is the top of the line 2021 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD.
The Sienna arrives in our garage wearing an unconventional Sunset Bronze Mica paint job. Toyota has completely reworked the new Sienna’s styling and it looks far more athletic than the outgoing model. The slim LED headlamps look laser focused, the massive grille sets a commanding presence, and we especially love the flares on the rear fenders that complete the muscular look. While chrome wheels are not usually our preference, they suit the Sienna nicely with the bronze paint scheme and the extra accents all around.
The biggest change for the Sienna lies within the engine bay ,where the entire lineup is now powered by a hybrid powerplant. Its 245-horsepower power output is modest when compared to last year’s 296-horsepower V6, but it is enough to get the Sienna moving without much lethargy. The engine is coarse under load, which we found ourselves doing quite often on onramps, but once you get up to cruising speed it is smooth and has no trouble keeping up speed. The Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission is adequate in delivering power to all four wheels but we prefer the previous eight-speed automatic transmission.
For every bit of power given up by the hybrid engine, the Sienna more than redeems itself once you look at its fuel efficiency. Toyota estimates 6.8L/100km in the city and 6.6L/100km on the highway, for a combined 6.7L/100km. This cuts fuel consumption nearly in half when compared to the last generation and puts the Sienna amongst the most efficient seven-seaters in the industry, alongside the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. During our real-world testing, we saw a slightly higher 7.9L/100km but this was during bitter cold weather in an urban setting. The 2021 Sienna requires regular grade fuel into its 68-litre tank.
Handling is an aspect that is hardly ever mentioned with minivans but the Sienna managed to surprise us with above-average driving dynamics. Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K), the Sienna features much improved handling and the batteries below the floor helped to lower the center of gravity, leading to more planted cornering. There is actually good steering feel and the Sienna drives better than many midsize crossovers.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna also features a class-leading interior. Its clean design is welcoming and the materials used are excellent. As with any minivan, storage space is of utmost importance and there is plenty of that in the Sienna’s cabin. The floating centre console frees up a large space below for bulky items that normally eats up room in the front passenger footwell and there are seven USB charging pots to help all of its occupants stay connected.
As always, Interior space is excellent in the Sienna. Toyota has extended the railing in the second row thus creating legroom that rivals a stretch limousine. The disadvantage is that the second-row captain’s seats are no longer removable which negatively impact its max cargo space. Our Limited tester comes with a rear seat entertainment system that allows HDMI inputs and two sets of wireless headphones, but we wish it could have also come with a DVD or Blu-Ray player so our smartphones can stay connected with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto up front.
Infotainment is delivered by a nine-inch touchscreen atop the centre console. It is the same system that is used across most of the Toyota lineup. Usability is acceptable once all the presets are done and we liked the shortcut keys along the screen for quicker access. However, we noted that the screen resolution is dated especially in map and camera image quality. The Sienna Limited comes standard with the 12-speaker JBL Clari-Fi premium audio system that is far better than the standard units on lower trims.
Enhancing safety is a priority with Toyota and they have certainly delivered on that promise with the 2021 Sienna by including Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 across the lineup. Standard features include Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection, Auto High Beam, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian and Bicycle Detection, and Radar Cruise Control. The Limited trim adds Intelligence Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross Traffic Brake, Bird’s Eye View camera, and Rear Camera Washer.
The 2021 Sienna starts at $39,990, which is only a $840 premium over the 2020 model that will easily pay for itself given the significant fuel efficiency improvement. The top-tier Limited model that we tested comes fully loaded with no options available for $58,190. The Sienna Limited AWD is the most expensive choice in the minivan segment but is the most refined, best equipped and most fuel efficient. Those seeking the sportiest driving experience can turn to the Honda Odyssey.
At the end of the test week with the 2021 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD, it is refreshing to finally see a new model, and we all came away impressed by how much effort Toyota has exerted with this redesign. It’s not perfect but he benefits far outweigh its drawbacks and we believe this is an attractive option for anyone in search for a balanced family hauler.