2020 Toyota Sienna offers a smooth and comfortable ride
The Toyota Sienna minivan has grown long in the tooth, having undergone its last major redesign for the 2011 model year. Tweaks, some of them significant, have kept it competitive thanks to the enduring success of the 2011 redesign and the departure of Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen from the minivan market. But Toyota reportedly will introduce a redesigned Sienna for the 2021 model year — an eager expectation that has contributed to a steep decline in Sienna U.S. sales, from a peak of 137,497 units sold in 2015 to 73,585 last year.
Of course, Toyota isn’t the only automaker that has seen minivan sales decline. But the remaining minivan-makers — Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Kia and Honda — are betting that American car owners will rediscover the minivan. It’s a safe, comfortable, versatile and fuel-efficient alternative to crossovers and sport-utility vehicles. Toyota nibbles at the edges of the crossover market by offering an all-wheel-drive Sienna, while efficiency-minded folks can opt for the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid.
The base Sienna L, with a 296-horsepower V-6 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, starts at $31,565. Our test car, a near-luxury Sienna SE Premium with all-wheel drive, had a somewhat lofty sticker price of $47,434. Depending on seating configuration, the Sienna can transport seven or eight passengers.
For people who convert their minivans from people-movers to cargo vans and back repeatedly, the Pacifica’s Stow-’n-Go system is preferable because all of the rear seats fold effortlessly into the floor. The second-row seats must be detached and removed from the Sienna and other minivans.
A week with the Sienna reminded us of how truly pleasant and reassuring a minivan can be, compared with conventional sedans, crossovers and SUVs. It’s easier to enter and exit than any sedan, yet drives like a car rather than a truck or van. The ride is smooth, quiet and comfortable, and the 296-horsepower engine delivers plenty of power. The Sienna’s all-wheel-drive system delivered an added level of confidence in snowy weather.
Fuel economy ranges from 19 mpg city, 27 highway, for front-wheel-drive models, to 18/24 for those with all-wheel drive.
The Sienna’s SE Premium edition comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense P system, Star Safety system, blind-spot monitor and cross-traffic alert — all good to have in so large a vehicle. The test car’s convenience and luxury features included leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-view Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system, premium audio system, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay compatibility, power tilt/slide moonroof, dual power sliding doors, power liftgate, and three-zone automatic climate control. Filling out the test car’s optional-equipment list were the Nightshade Edition, ($700), comprised of cosmetic flourishes; door-edge guards ($79); and paint-protection film ($395).
2020 Toyota Sienna SE Premium
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 296 horsepower
Transmission: direct-shift 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,605 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, twist blade with coil spring rear
Wheels: 18-in. alloy
Tires: 235/55RF18 all-season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 39.1 cu. ft. with all seats upright; 87.1 cu. ft. with third-row seat folded
Maximum cargo capacity: 150 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 20 gal.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 24 highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
The Sienna has received five-star ratings in U.S. government crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Sienna “Good” ratings in all categories except small-overlap front, driver’s side (acceptable) and small-overlap front, passenger side (marginal).
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.