Despite having a six-year-old daughter and wandering intentions that often take us on long drives, my husband refuses to drive a mini-van. I tried to talk him into one a few years ago, but we ended up with a crossover instead. His reluctance is not exactly fair. The Chrysler Pacifica is a plug-in dream, Honda’s Odyssey reliably conquers our continent, and the new Kia Sedona is a real art piece. It’s against that backdrop that the stylish and high-tech completely redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna landed in our driveway.
Sleek Muscular Style
It’s built in Indiana, but was inspired by the Shinkansen Japanese Bullet Train – evidenced by sleek sinewy forms ready to zip across the landscape. Squinty headlamps, large grille, chiseled bodysides, bulging fenders, and thin angular taillamps give the van a lithe tailored appearance. Our base LE edition rides on 17” wheels, but upper trim models add larger kicks. From the curb or watching it stretch by on the Interstate, it looks quite handsome.
Spot-on aesthetics carry to the interior where a wide bridge console with cavernous storage below and within accompany a wide touchscreen above. Our van had cloth seats and rubber steering wheel, but details like woodgrain on most flat surfaces, stitched coverings on the console, satin silver accents, and armrests mounted to the bridge lend an aura of traveling in a high-tech Japanese minka. Second row captain’s chairs are available, but base models come with an insert to allow eight-passenger seating. The rearmost seat folds into the floor. It’s all beautiful…and functional.
There’s abundant technology, too. Dual zone automatic climate control, 8-speaker audio, sunroof, and wireless device charging are available. Add in Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa to make connections a cinch. Keeping the tribe safe are radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and rear seat child reminder. So you have to manually open and close the rear hatch? No biggie.
Efficient Hybrid Powertrain
The Sienna channels its famous Prius sibling and has gone all-hybrid for 2021. Unlike the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica that can travel 30 miles without torching dead dinos, the Sienna powertrain is more conventional. There’s no plug, but the 2.5-liter four-cylinder-based system conjures a combined 243 horsepower and routes it to the all-wheel-drive system that employs an electric motor to drive the rear wheels. Towing capacity rates 3,500 lbs., enough to tow a pop-up camper or smaller boat. Throwing shade to thirsty crossovers are fuel economy ratings of 36/36-MPG city/highway.
Besides cavernous space, mini-vans win with their driving dynamics. They are based on car architecture, sitting low to the road to enhance handling and ride comfort – like driving large sedans with panoramic visibility. The Sienna’s suspension is the right balance of comfort and control, able to soak up long miles or the daily grind serenely. I’ll always take more power, but the Sienna has enough to move families down the road. Selectable drive modes can tighten the steering and sharpen throttle response in Sport mode or do the opposite in Eco mode.
If my husband drove the Sienna from Indianapolis to Dallas and back during our next family visit, I’d convince him to buy a mini-van. This one has the fashionable wrapper and technology suite he craves, but also fuel economy and space he’s never experienced before. There’s no shame in driving this mini-van! Base models start at $34,460, coming to $39,935 as-tested.
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2021 Toyota Sienna LE
Eight-passenger, AWD Van
Powertrain: 2.5-liter I4 Hybrid, CVT
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 17”17” alloy
Brakes f/r: Regen disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Travel
Towing: 3,500 lbs.
Fuel economy: 36/36 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Princeton, IN
Base/As-tested price: $34,460/$39,935