Kermit The Frog may have had his own reasons for complaining that it’s not easy being green, however in the case of the 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan, that is certainly not the case. Of course we aren’t just talking about the Cypress Green Metallic paint color, a shade that really should be offered on more vehicles, but of course the fact that Toyota has decided that this generation of Sienna will only be sold with a hybrid powertrain, resulting in EPA mileage estimates in the mid-30s.
As bold a step as that is, there are plenty of other things to like about this newest generation of Sienna as well with models from the base LE trim on up the range, coincidentally also starting in the mid-30s, albeit on a dollar scale as opposed to an mpg one. Toyota decided to send us a significantly fancier model to take a look at, in this case the top of the line Platinum trim with on-demand all wheel drive along with a plethora of other attractions.
This is now the fourth generation of Sienna with the first one dating back to the 1998 model year. It has always been a popular option even though the minivan segment as a whole has seen significant declines in demand since that first version, the market now reduced to a total of four manufacturers as main players. Styling conforms to the modern Toyota idiom, up front retaining the wide lower grille that was first introduced a few years ago with the last generation’s facelift.
Along the sides the dominant feature is the rear fenderline swoop that is seen in some of the other newer models as well. Otherwise it’s fairly conventional, i.e. basically a large box with some styling applied to it, recognizing that what’s inside and how it fulfills its main function is likely far more important to buyers than winning any design awards for the exterior. Minivans are workhorses, not show ponies. Still, at 0.29 Coefficient of drag it’s a sleekly shaped workhorse as far as the wind is concerned.
The front doors still open wide and stepping in is simple, requiring neither a step up nor down, basically just slide on over into the large and wide front seats. In this case they were covered in Nobel Brown Leather, a color that also is present in large parts of the dashboard and elsewhere. The seats are heated, ventilated and easily adjustable with four-way lumbar, finding a comfortable position was easy for my 6’1″ with 32″ inseam frame, even under the sunroof.
My head still had an inch or more before brushing the headliner, and although the pedals are positioned as expected and there is a large dead pedal space to the left, there isn’t much room behind or beside the pedals if a leg needs stretching. Better to move the seat back a little along with the electrically adjustable steering wheel in order to leave enough room for the legs while driving. Then save the settings into the memory and the seat moves itself back and forth as needed in an easy-entry mode when exiting and entering.
The dashboard is interesting and comes across as extremely modern with its double cockpit feel. There’s a large center console that though is just a flat plane and open underneath with a rubberized flat surface at the bottom. It makes for a huge extra storage space for a purse or backpack while the upper section flows into a shelf space along the dashboard.
The days of being able to enter the driver’s seat from the rear in a sort of Millennium Falcon style are long gone; as perhaps the corollary to that, i.e. being able to leave the passenger seat to attend to a rear passenger while actually in motion was deemed unsafe (and is, if you really consider it, far better to pull over, stop, and use a door).
In the center of the dash is a large 9″ touchscreen with the normal buttons and knobs on the edges as most modern Toyotas currently do, this system works well and intuitively with the backup (and forward) cameras being of lower resolution than some others, but still clear enough to see what’s going on. It’s not really objectionable when this is one’s primary vehicle but noticeable when jumping back and forth into one with a better device. The Navigation screen works well and it’s easy to comprehend the displayed map if perhaps the voice commands seem from a generation ago with a somewhat halting computer-controlled “voice” trying to form flowing sentences.
As is becoming common this one too allows a user to section the screen to display different information in various formats but will jump to a menu item using the whole screen when it is purposely selected. This van came equipped with the premium JBL 12-speaker system including subwoofer and amplifier as well as a function that will amplify the driver’s voice towards the rear seat occupants at a level determined by the driver, a good function that precludes the need to actually raise one’s voice and/or turn one’s head. Little Johnny will hear the call to stop bothering his sister loud and clear. If he actually heeds that call is another matter entirely and beyond the purview of this review.
Below the screen are the controls for the in this case FOUR-zone automatic climate control, perhaps a first for me, certainly in a minivan. The controls are arranged logically and allows control of both the front and the rear cabin areas by the driver or the second row can control their own. The zones are front driver, front passenger, and then the rest of the van is split left/right. Just below that on the flat shelf area is a wireless charging pad as well as a USB port (of which there are a number of other outlets both in the console bin as well as scattered about the rest of the interior).
As far as cupholders go, there are four in the front between the driver and passenger (two are under a flip up lid) as well as several bottle holders in the door pockets. The rear cabin has oodles more of the same, there is zero reason for anyone to actually spill a drink when not actively holding it. Arm rests are affixed to the console and between them is a large bin with a lid.
Plastic surfaces in the front area are soft in the upper areas of the doors (the lighter color), which then turns hard when it becomes the dashboard. The brown areas of the dash are soft for the first five or so inches from their leading edges and then turn hard via a surface mounted separate piece of material with stitching in it, this works quite well here visually and by touch. Lower black areas are generally hard/durable. Note the cubby in the cupholder above, it was perfect to hold my garage door opener in place (although the van has Homelink), a phone could also be perched in there while still leaving space for a beverage.
The graining of the plastics on the doors and dash is topnotch with everything lining up quite well except the finished surface of the console lid which was a bit off. The flat surface of that center console is a semi-shiny patterned plastic, smooth to the touch, it doesn’t really try (or perhaps it just doesn’t succeed?) to obviously emulate wood but rather a sort of striped pattern, although the picture does make it seem more like fake wood. In person the effect is just a bit different but it works and doesn’t feel downscale.
The sliding doors can be opened either from the keyfob, an upper console near the sunroof, buttons on the doorhandles, the doorhandles themselves or by waving a foot under the B-pillar area, something that liftgates and trunklids have done for some time but I haven’t seen on a side door before. It worked quite well and with full hands is a great idea. (The rear liftgate of course does this as well).
Seats are captain’s chairs with armrests on both side and while they are not meant to be removeable as they contain side airbags this one had extended tracks that allowed them to move up all the way to just behind the front seats but also all the way back to where the rear seats are, leaving several feet of legroom in front.
Comfort was good, and the optional (and included on this one) rear seat entertainment center with a fold-down-from-the-ceiling 11.6″ display, HDMI input, remotes and two sets of wireless headphones would likely keep anyone entertained should that be desired. Note that while usually these screens would block any rearward vision from the front mirror, in this case the mirror has a digital option, so flipping it back lets it display a different and much higher resolution rear camera feed (there are two cameras back there).
The third row is also comfortable, has its own cupholders (two per side) along with a couple of USB ports in two sizes, seats three, and can be folded 60/40 using a seatback mounted handle in one motion either up or down with a strap to then adjust the recline angle. It works very well and is among the easier systems to use.
Behind the rear seat is a deep storage well if the seats are up and if they are down the floor is mainly flat although small loose items will likely fall between the seats and end up in the well below for later retrieval. One of the two 1500Watt 120V outlets is on the right wall of the cargo area.
There’s a lot of room back here with the seats either down or up, far more than in most three row SUVs besides perhaps the largest ones. Of course the low liftover height is another attraction for stuff like strollers or other heavy items. Push a button on the bottom edge of the liftgate and it closes again.
One unfortunate oversight though seems to be that I found it somewhat difficult to look and see over my shoulders, the middle row headrests block vision out of the rearmost passenger side window and the pillars were intrusive on the driver side (at the rearmost side window again). The blind spot monitor did come in handy in traffic when making sure a lane was clear and backing up made use of the camera (plus the bird’s eye view feature) although the immediate rear view is not obstructed.
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This is actually a really pretty van. I like the green with the brown interior. Looks really sharp.
31 mpg to boot, with all wheel drive? If you can stomach the price, Toyota really has a winner here.
34.4 mpg, actually, for his total average.
Toyota should make the spare tire standard, “spare tire delete” optional. Especially on AWD models. Spare tire is almost non-existent among dealer inventory. Photo of the driver-side interior (behind 3rd row) shows the spare is not present on this one.
A coworker just bought one of these after his family-inherited 100k mile-ish ’11 T&C got a noisy wheel bearing on the highway and I guess his wife freaked out, so with an upcoming family vacation in mind off they went to blow $40k on one of these Hybrid Siennas. He raves about the MPG and I’m glad he’s happy, but wow what a way to miss the forest for the trees, financially speaking.
The lack of folding/removable middle seats is an unforgivable sin on a minivan IMO. Then again Kia did just that back in 2015. Non-removable front row consoles have become the norm as well for over a decade in minivans, another mistake IMO but the buying public doesn’t seem to mind. We always take the one out of our ’16 T&C for road trips so my wife can move front/back easily.
Finally, I find the styling on these nothing short of ghastly. Love that green paint and interior color though! I wait with bated breath for Toyota to reverse course and come back to plainer less fussy styling
It is quite excellent to see a good green make a reappearance on a mass market vehicle.
I’m seeing more and more greens in the wild (mostly GMs, Toyota, Subaru), and Jeep even makes a nice teal for their Wrangler and a few of the other models.
I intended to test drive one of these but was only able to sit in one as the dealer had none in stock and just took delivery on one as I stood there. Three things stood out to me:
1. the driver seat bottom as seen in the photos was incredibly thin, felt like a 2 inch pad on top of a plastic platform. I’d like to know if Jim found the seats comfortable on longer drives.
2. the center console with the fixed armrests was not to my liking. Storage was not great unless one wanted to bend over and stash something in the oval opening under the console. Fixed armrests also seem to fit no one
3. mini-vans (and not just this one) are expensive. As noted above you’re looking at 42-45K vs say 26K for a standard CUV like a CRV. That’s a serious difference.
But the hybrid drivetrain is an excellent idea and definitely separates the Sienna from the crowd.
Good questions –
I had no issues with the seat cushion, my longest drive (continuous) involved almost three hours in the saddle without a dismount (airport, waiting for the delayed landing without getting out, then back home). Seats though are likely the most subjective part of any vehicle, you need to put your backside in them to be sure if it works for you. I tend to have back issues more than bottom issues but neither here.
There’s a large storage bin under the inner elbow too. It’s over 11″ deep and has a pretty wide opening. It’s the lidded compartment that’s most to the rear of the flat console and goes down to almost the floor.
I didn’t find the armrests objectionable, but again, subjective. But I also don’t recall having my arms actually resting on the inner one while driving so perhaps that depends on ones mannerism in that respect. They are fixed, the ones in other vehicles are generally not fixed but also not height adjustable, i.e. you can angle them with their one pivot point but not raise or lower them as a horizontal surface.
The Sienna LE starts at $34,460 plus the destination charge of $1,175. The AWD adds about $2,000 if you need/want it. The LE Plus package adds another $2300 and gets you almost all the way to whatever comfort/convenience items you might possible want (besides leather but with CarPlay, wireless charger etc), the base van without that still has three zone HVAC for example and the exact same powertrain. So that’s just under $40k with it all for a loaded LE. Yes, plenty of other trim levels available (all of which come with four zone HVAC standard) and you really have to like spending money to need to spend anywhere near $50k.
But a standard CUV like a CRV in its absolute cheapest, Front Wheel Drive, Non-Hybrid form starts at $25,350 plus $1,225 Destination for a total of $26,575. The loaded CRV that I reviewed here last year stickered at $35,845 but is not comparable either on the basis of space or fuel economy. By all means though, if there is no need for the space, why buy a large vehicle. Most people don’t “need” a CRV either, something like a Corolla would work too for even less money. In general though, if you’re looking for a minivan you’ve made the decision that it’s what’s needed, most likely for the third row and overall space. The real-world options out there are large-ish three row SUVs (not the Highlander which is smaller inside) with a usually resultant greater cost and lower efficiency.
Although I am well past my child carpool years, I continue to admire minivans for their space efficiency, comfort, and lower overall cost than SUVs/CUVs of similar size. The hybrid configuration really makes sense for this vehicle, providing adequate power and excellent fuel economy. I don’t think I’d want to spend $54k on one, however, a mid-level XLE model priced in the low $40ks (with a few options) would probably fill the bill.
I really don’t like that front console, however, as it unnecessarily consumes way too much space up front. Also, the non-removable second row seats are a no go, as I do have occasion to haul large pieces of furniture and would want a more flexible cargo configuration.
I have not driven this generation of Sienna, but previous gen models lagged behind their Honda and Chrysler competitors in terms of handling. The Toyota always seemed less agile and felt bulkier, more like the large vehicle it is, the minivan categorization notwithstanding. I don’t know whether this is still the case, but if so, that, along with the console and non-removable middle row seats would possibly (likely?) push me towards either Honda or Chrysler
Having had significant direct experience with a number of Chrysler Pacificas,
the myriad problems and horrific dealership service would be a deal killer. They do
From what I recall my old 2005 (gen 2) handled better than this one, but this one was better than the last one I drove from the most recent generation (gen 3), that one seemed very wallowy. There is (and was) an SE version which has improvements in that regard. Note that the AWD Sienna comes with 18″ wheels, the same Platinum trim with FWD is equipped with 20″ wheels which would likely make a difference to the handling if perhaps not the ride (which was excellent on this van).
The current Chryslers are in my opinion somewhat sportier-feeling, which isn’t a very high bar to clear though. The last Odyssey I drove was my own 2006 which didn’t feel that much better than the equivalent Sienna, I have not driven the more recent ones. On the whole though this Sienna is more a cruiser than a carver or drag racer.
The seats don’t remove easily (I mean, you COULD with tools) due to their integrated side airbags and seat heaters which is probably logical, I assume they’d prefer you didn’t manhandle and potentially drop them on their sides etc or mess with the plugs/wiring and probably figure that the improved occupant protection is better than the ability to carry 4×8 plywood with the hatch closed. The seats do fold down so it may still be possible to put large stuff on top. I believe stick lumber would fit inside the van though by moving the front seat up, staggering the middle row and lowering the third row. For furniture, yeah the 96″ sideboard would be a problem but anything up to maybe 5-6 feet seems doable by scooching the second row all way forward.
Impressive mileage. Not so impressed by fixed consoles and non-removable seats, but that’s just me.
Excellent, comprehensive, real-world review. Time will tell if the lack of removable second row seats will affect sales. The deal from my understanding is that the second row side airbags are now placed in the seats themselves rather than in the body pillars so Toyota didn’t want the hassle of customers removing airbags from the van. That’s the scuttlebutt on the Sienna forums, anyway. My guess is that electronics hackers will figure out how to fool the body ECU to think that the seats are still there after they’re removed.
I’ve looked at the owners manual for these new Siennas and from what I can tell the HVAC is similar to the Prius in that the compressor is powered from the traction battery so the HVAC can be set to auto when parked and the van heated/cooled, with the engine starting/stopping as necessary to keep the traction battery charged and the coolant warm. If true it’s a boon to campers, even w/o the removable second row.
4,725 lbs + mid-30s gas mileage is amazing.
“4,725 lbs + mid-30s gas mileage is amazing.”
I know, right? The thing that was most objectionable about our old 2005 Sienna and the 2006 Odyssey was the gas mileage, well below 20 in everyday around town driving and only able to (barely) exceed 20 on a long highway trip. Had the Hybrid Sienna been available for example back when the Hybrid three-row Highlander came out, perhaps less people would have moved from Minivans to SUVs in general, at the time figuring that the fuel economy wasn’t really much if any worse.
The Pacifica Hybrid has a similar electric A/C system that operates in the same manner. Since it’s a plug-in, an added bonus is the interior can be easily cooled while plugged-in with no noticable effect on charging (at least with the 220/240v Level 2 charging).
It will also work for heating the interior, but there’s more of an adverse impact on charging.
I’ll be the first to admit that this seemingly minor convenience is a big real world deal, similar to a heated steering wheel. Leaving the Tesla out in the hot sun while shopping or something and coming back to it with the black interior at 70 degrees is a huge nicety, no matter how much of the charge (it isn’t real-world noticeable) it uses to do so. Same in the winter the other way, and especially in the mornings when the garage is cold but the car is plugged in. It’s certainly less impactful than using “remote start” in a regular vehicle that burns gasoline while temperating (is that a word?) the interior.
A previous generation Prius had a very nice solar panel sunroof that powered a small fan to cool the interior. I was really bummed when they did away with that feature with subsequent models.
As to Tesla, this is yet another area that drives me insane about those cars (or, more accurately, the people who drive them). There are quite a few inconsiderate Tesla owners who will plug their vehicles in at free public charge stations for inordinate amounts of time (4+ hours) to mooch free electric. They drop their Tesla off and return much later to pick it up after it’s fully charged.
While this is bad enough, if what’s called ‘Dog Mode’ is enabled on the Tesla to keep the interior at a comfortable temperature, it will ‘continue’ to draw electric even after the Tesla’s battery is fully charged.
Where this becomes an issue (besides hogging the charger) is if it’s a dual, shared-power station. In effect, someone using the other port will only be able to draw half as much power (doubling the charge time) due to the plugged-in Tesla constantly drawing electric from the same station to keep his interior cooled/heated.
Rich people didn’t get that way by spending money they don’t need to. I totally agree, but the way around that is to not make the chargers “free”. I bought a $50k+ EV, I can afford to pay for the juice, but if someone’s giving it for free, I can see the temptation. To be clear, I agree with you in regard to the behavior. It’s been a problem at Tesla Superchargers as well, they get around it now by charging a parking charge if the car is fully charged and not moved within a certain amount of time as some users got free charging as a perk. Trust me, there are plenty of people in the Tesla owner’s community annoyed by some Tesla drivers.
That said, it really is just as likely that there is a Leaf or Bolt plugged in all day long too at the free chargers.
I disagree about the likelihood of a non-Tesla EV hogging a free public station being the same as a Tesla, but it’s not because they’re more considerate. It’s just a matter of volume; Tesla has been the best-selling EV for sometime, and there are a whole lot more of them than any other. So the percentage of uncivil EV owners might be the same across all manufacturers, but shear volume means a there’s a whole lot more of them driving Teslas.
With that said, I admit I see many Volts at free stations for long periods, too, but that’s mainly due to the lame 3.3kWh onboard charger, meaning the Volt needs >3.5 hours for a full charge (and since they have an ICE, the probability is high they’ll have a completely depleted battery when they pull up to the station, too).
We had a ’99 Odyssey (first “big” year”) that was coincidentally also a nice shade of dark green. It was the beginning of peak-child taxi years (BD parties; soccer; etc) so even with just two children, it made sense. It had removable second row seats, but TBH I can only remember doing so once, when I moved my mom to assisted living after our girls were already moving beyond minvan need. Given how heavy those seats were and the almost-never need to do so, not sure the loss is a big deal. Using a minivan for golden-years antiquing might change that analysis, but golden-yearers should not be lifting second row seats.
OTOH, our Odyssey had a fold down table rather than a console between the front seats, and that came in really handy when my wife needed to move back to tend to something. I’d rather have that than a big console.
“Given how heavy those seats were… …should not be lifting second row seats.”
Ah, but what if said seats folded flat neatly into the floor?
I’ve used mine a handful of times moving furniture. Is it a 100% mission critical feature? Not really. But boy it was handy as heck the times I used it. Most recently to haul a cedar swinging porch home that my wife and I bought on somewhat of a whim. In fact we had one of the second row captains chairs folded flat, third row flat, and our son in his car seat in the other second row chair.
Yeah I removed our Sienna’s seats a few times as well as those of the Odyssey, it sucked every single time. Just like removing the rear seat in our Wrangler does. Big, heavy, unwieldy and thoughts of the medical deductible in my head as I was staggering around with them. Putting them back in was usually worse, and as you indicated no better as we age. Better just to have the stuff delivered or if the need is that great and that often, leave them out for good or own a truck.
I’ve ridden in those vans with the middle folding into the floor, if it’s a kid’s main seat with a booster or baby thing strapped into it all the time, it’s fine since they are on that instead, but if an adult or larger kid without their own seat sits in them, they generally suck, there is minimal comfort to the point that the third row is usually better. These days I’d probably rather have the all-the-time increased protection of the side air bag in the seat than the ability to supposedly “easily” remove it once in a blue moon.
I think Jim has hit on the reason Toyota has skipped the removable 2nd row seats on the new Sienna. Stow ‘n Go is a nice feature, but the seats themselves are useless for anyone other than small children. And the removable type are such a headache to remove (and store), that most people will only try it once, then never do it, again.
“but the seats themselves are useless for anyone other than small children”
Okay, now that might be just a bit of a reach. Particularly in regard to the newer ones in the Pacificas
I get slightly better mileage on my ’04 Sienna although mine is probably loaded lighter than yours was. 18mpg around town in the dead of winter but a recent RT to/from Chicago it got 24 @80mph with the AC blasting. Still a far cry from this mileage master hybrid though.
I want this new Sienna but not ever having bought a new car I’ll wait five or ten years and pick one up used. By then the second row seat hack will probably be worked out. At the risk boring others re: camping, a recently well done video on the Gen4 Sienna’s parked HVAC capabilities:
That was an interesting video.
One thing that sticks out is that he says he can’t lock the doors with the engine running. I can understand not being able to lock the doors and get out, with the PDL switch but he implies that you can’t lock the doors while you are driving it. You may be able to get around that by manually locking the door you exit from assuming it has a manual door lock which it may not. That is one of the things that I like about my Fords with the keypad entry. You might not be able to lock the doors with a door open but you can lock it with it running using the key pad.
Regarding his question about how little of the battery is used to run the AC before the engine cycles back on. It isn’t really about keeping a certain level of charge for driving performance. Yes since it starts the engine you don’t want it to fall too low and (frequent) deep drains aren’t great for battery health.
The real reason however is emissions. They don’t want the engine and Cat to get so cold that they need warm up enrichment to maintain smooth running nor to wait for the cat to reach the temp needed to be effective. It is the same reason that once the engine is started it won’t enter normal hybrid operation until a minimum engine temp is reached.
At the other end of the temp scale if you are heating a stationary vehicle the engine will cycle on more frequently than when using it to cool since you are actively extracting heat from the engine and the colder ambient temps are also cooling the engine and Cat that much quicker.
AC performance is one of the reasons we haven’t bought a non-hybrid daily driver since our first in 2014. Not only does it keep the car cool with the engine off, it can cool the cabin much quicker since the speed of the compressor is not dependent on the engine speed.
The door locks do in fact lock, it’s shift-activated, i.e. I believe it needs to be in gear to do so, it’d be a pretty big safety miss to require the doors to be unlocked while in motion.
“Power door locks with shiftactivated locking feature and antilockout feature” is how it’s called out on the spec sheet.
This is viewed differently in different places. I don’t recall the specifics, but about twenty years ago in the middle of lit review for one or another topic related to traffic safety, I discovered that in some countries—either by law or by custom—car doors are (or were) not locked while driving. The idea was to reduce the likelihood of being unable to open the door after a crash. I don’t know that there’s much validity to that; seems to me a crash severe enough to make it an issue is likely to jam the door whether or not it’s locked.
I also don’t know that there’s much validity to the opposite reasoning, that locking the doors will make them less likely to pop open in a crash. Maybe with the inadequate door latches (and unbelted occupants) of the past, where every possible extra bit of reinforcement helped, but maybe not so much today.
Probably the matter comes down to non-crash-related stuff: are you carrying kids or other impulsive passengers likely to open the door by playing with the handle? Is the interior handle designed such that it falls to hand in a panic grab during a crash? Are you likely to be carjacked?
(The semiautomatic locks are on my lengthy spit-list applicable to my 2007 Accord.)
But are there any lock buttons so that you can lock it w/o putting it in gear? I guess you could start it up put it in gear and then climb in the back not that it would be easy to do.
Separate physical lock actuators are going away, so I guess it is only a matter of time before PDL buttons inside the car go away. Today’s connected systems make it easier than ever to enable auto locking/unlocking and anti-lockout functions and the remote can be used to lock the car when you park and leave it.
There is a lock/unlock button on the driver’s side armrest.
If you read the first few comments in the video the author corrects his statement about not being able to lock the car with the HVAC in automatic mode. Using the key fob to lock the car will kick the HVAC out of auto mode but the van can be locked from the inside with the door button(s) or on the outside with the key w/o affecting the auto HVAC. The owners manual explains it pretty well.
Yeah I didn’t go over to YouTube to watch it so no reading of the comments. It didn’t make sense that you couldn’t lock it from the inside with the engine running w/o having it auto lock by putting it in gear.
The point the author was making was that you couldn’t lock the doors with the HVAC in auto stationary mode, where the engine starts/stops to meet cabin temp requirements while the van isn’t being driven. HVAC operation when the car is being driven is unaffected.
And it turns out that while you will kick the HVAC out of auto stationary mode if you use the key fob to lock the van, you can lock it from the inside with the door buttons and from the outside with the key and keep the auto HVAC running.
It must be what Toyota lawyers told them the safe middle ground was as far as leaving the vehicle running unattended or with people sleeping inside. That is, when the key fob is activated the engine shuts off.
Geeze, it’s been a very long time since I saw a new car that made me sit up and go “Hey, now…!”. I don’t have need of a minivan as such, but that sure looks like a comfortable place to be during road trips, the mileage is quite a whole hell of a lot better than I get in my Accord, and that green paint is exactly what’s called for.
This is more and more of a problem in more and more vehicles. Fortunately for me I just about never carry anyone in the back seat, so I remove the rear head restraints to improve my rearward sightlines—the ones from my own car are in a box in the garage, and whenever I rent a car the first thing I do before leaving the lot is yank ’em and put ’em in the footwells (or curse and snarl if they’re non-removable).
I do understand and agree with the need for effective head restraints. But like the ultra-bulky pillars which meet roof crush standards and consign pedestrians to death, things get dicey when we trade off one kind of safety for another—and furthermore, I’m surely glad my back-seat-of-the-car days were done before it became impossible to look out the windshield (or see forward at all) from back there.
I have two minivans — a 2010 Odyssey and a 2018 Sedona.
When I bought the Odyssey I removed the read headrests because they blocked rear vision, both directly and through the rear view mirror. I figured whatever safety benefit is provided by the headrests was more than negated by the lack of visibility.
However, in the Sedona, the headrests don’t come out because they’re attached to a cable, which is part of the seat-folding mechanism (the headrest folds forward when the seat is folded). That’s one of my few complaints about that car. The blind spots are hazardous… and it’s not just in the rear, but the thick front pillar creates a front blind spot that’s big enough to hide a car in.
I can’t figure out what would be so hard about creating rear-seat headrests that passengers can deploy when needed/wanted. Then they’d be hidden and not visibility hazards when not in use.
Do they automatically pop up when the seat is erected? On the Sienna they fold down as you describe when folding the seat (convenient) but then you need to manually push them back up when the seat goes back up. This is the third row I mean.
The headrests in this case causing the issue were in the second row, not really realistic to not have them in place, but negated for the most part by the electronic safety stuff and cameras which is standard equipment for this van on any trim level – which is my pet peeve in any car – safety should not be an option, if you’re going to offer visibility aids such as blind spot systems and similar on ANY trim level, then it needs to be included (or available at the same cost if an option) on EVERY trim level, period. Yes, I realize people drove for decades without nannies but if you have seven or eight actual people in the van, their heads are going to be in the way too, so then the visibility aids do have a (or even more) valid function.
Yes, I’m talking about the second-row seats. They have headrests attached by a cable that folds them about 90° forward when the seat is folded (the Sedona’s 2nd-row seats are also not removable).
The Sedona’s 3rd row actually does have flip-up headrests, though when stored, they’re folded on the seat back. That’s probably OK for an occasional-use 3rd row (at least in normal driving, they’re not in the way at all), but that setup would be annoying in the 2nd row.
I think there should be a “How Hard Can It Be To Build a (HIgh Fuel Mileage) Minivan?” series. We now have four contenders (really just two for the mileage):
– Pacifica Hybrid
– Toyota Sienna Hybrid
– Honda Odyssey
– Kia Carnival “MPV”
Good old Chrysler is sticking with the formula that’s always worked in the past, mainly removable 2nd row seats. The biggest issues with their minivans is no towing capability, no AWD (at least on the Hybrid), and the typical Chrysler quality glitches. But those quibbles aside, if you want the highest mileage (at least in town with a place to plug-in), there’s really no other choice. And if you’re rabidly anti-hybrid, Chrysler offers plenty of options for that, too, in both upper and lower trims. If you don’t need towing or AWD capability, and want to take a chance on getting a ‘good’ Chrysler product (anecdotal evidence suggests you’ve got a one-in-ten chance of getting a bad one), seems like the Pacifica Hybrid is the way to go for the fuel conscious.
Toyota, OTOH, is going with the formula that’s worked since the original Prius hit the streets, i.e., a non-plug-in hybrid with old-tech NiMH batteries. It’s worth noting that, unlike Chrysler’s minvans, ‘all’ Siennas built are hybrids. Plus, you get the added bonus of an AWD option (on any trim, too!) and towing capability. But, thanks to side airbags, the second row seats cannot be easily removed (a huge feature on minivans since their inception), not to mention the virtual impossibility of getting to the rear via a front row pass-thru. To be fair, that’s tough to do in any new minivan since they all have big center consoles (although, if you go with the lowest trim Chrysler ‘Voyager’ (the renamed lowest trim Pacifica), it has a small, token center console that is easily stepped over). But if towing, AWD, no place to plug-in, lots of highway driving, and the best reliability reputation in the business are your things, the Sienna is the choice.
The oddballs are the Odyssey and Carnival, neither of which offer a hybrid drivetrain. The Odyssey is about as conventional as you can get with all of the features one expects in a minivan, including the same, mediocre fuel mileage they’ve always had.
The Carnival is the one that’s a puzzler. Not only do you not get the pass-thru or removable 2nd row seats, there’s no hybrid drivetrain (strange for a company that’s diving head-first into the hybrid pool with nearly all of their other new models). In fact, about the only thing that makes the Carnival a minivan are the sliding doors. I can only surmise that Kia is trying to convince potential buyers it’s not a minivan, but a very practical SUV. They even make a point of calling it an MPV like the old Mazda minivan.
The Toyota is the one minivan I have had almost no direct experience with. There appears to be a lot to like here.
BUT – I really hate the non-removable 2nd row seats. I have 3 “real” vans by now – 2 mini and 1 big. (I am excluding the 96 hinged door Odyssey from this tally). In every one of them I have had the seats out multiple times a year – furniture, kids’ possessions and mulch seem to be the most common non-human passengers. Yes, they are a PITA to get in and out. Yes, they are a PITA to store when they are not in the van. And YES, I will really miss that feature terribly if ever I get a minivan with fixed seats – almost to the point of making the van unnecessary in my life.
I really love the green paint, and while the console is not my favorite feature, it is not a deal breaker. I wonder – is it possible to combine the front and middle seats on the passenger side so that a passenger can stretch out chaise lounge-style? A lack of that one will be Mrs. JPC’s dealbreaker.
They actually apparently offer a middle row seat option in some trims with an ottoman that comes up from the bottom, like a recliner. I did not check to see if the front seat can recline back all the way to be level like a bed, it may very well though.
I get it re moving stuff but I’d FAR more likely make two trips to to get bagged mulch than remove any center seat. If you call around though and you are buying that much volume it’s likely cheaper just to have it delivered in non-bag form and include the delivery fee. You’re likely significantly over the GVWR too if you’re stacking it floor to ceiling from the back of the driver’s seat to the tailgate just to make it one trip.
The center seats move very far forward, I suppose a 7-foot bookcase would not fit but almost anything else would still with room to stack stuff on the center seat.
I kind of see a pickup in your future though 🙂
Yeah, I’m rather surprised the loaded test vehicle didn’t have the 2nd row ottomans. This is something that is also available on the new Kia Carnival with the same non-removable 2nd row seats (I think the previous Sedona had the availability, as well).
In fact, the Carnival’s 2nd row seats, although not removable, will fold up vertically behind the 1st row seats. I would have thought the same was true of the Sienna’s 2nd row seats, but don’t know if that’s the case.
I just checked and apparently it’s not available with AWD in any Sienna trim level. No good reason for that though as it’s mechanical and all above the floor. Perhaps weight and GVWR related, who knows. If you wait a decade there’ll perhaps be a set in the junkyard at a good price that’ll likely bolt right in…and you can experience how heavy a modern second row seat with airbag and ottoman feature really is!
Yeah, that’s a weird one. You’re probably right that it’s GVWR related. I think the cut-off that puts a vehicle into a different class is something like 6500 lbs, and today’s minivans (particularly to maintain a certain towing capability) can get very close to that, especially with a heavy drive battery. In effect, you can have AWD or ottomans for the 2nd row seats, but not both, because it would make it too heavy.
That’s the main reason the Pacifica Hybrid can’t tow; the traction battery takes up a big part of its cargo capacity. Similar to the Sienna ottoman situation, the Pacifica Hybrid does not have an electric folding 3rd row seat, or a 2nd row center seat option, either, whereas the gas versions do.
The cutoff for a lot of things is at 6000 GVWR, which some minivans deliberately exceed and others deliberately do not (most notably the Sienna at 5995).
There ya go. You can bet ottoman-equipped 2nd row seats would weigh more than an extra five pounds and take the Sienna over the 6,000 lb threshold. Man, Toyota sure cut it close on the Sienna’s weight.
No that’s not how it or GVWR works.
The Sienna in this configuration weighs 4,725 pounds as I stated in the post (per Toyota’s site), nowhere near 6,000 pounds. GVWR is the maximum weight that they want in the vehicle including the vehicle itself, passengers, and cargo. And I suppose tongue weight of a trailer if towing something.
Likely they for whatever reason wanted a specific margin between the vehicle weight and the GVWR and perhaps the ottoman bumped it past that margin when also equipped with AWD so it was left off. When you buy a Toyota depending on what options or accessories are selected there is often a supplemental sticker next to the build tag that modifies the GVWR data due to the weight of the options, I’ve not seen any other manufacturer do that, Toyota seems to be a stickler for it. GM on their fullsize trucks actually prints it all on the actual tag itself which is neat so you can see exactly how that particular build affects how much it can tow etc, so no two trucks are identical (unless equipped exactly the same of course).
There’s likely a fair amount of buffer in that GVWR, 6000 pounds is the mark at which some tax implications can conceivably come into play as well, there seem to be a decent amount of vehicles from various manufacturers that are either just over or just under that GVWR threshold for whatever reasons.
While a long bed pick up can hold a lot of big and long cargo, the high lift over into the bed can make them impractical. My truck is thankfully not as tall as a new 4×4 model, but it isn’t as easy to load as my old Explorer was. My ’90 Caravan seats were heavy and hard to remove while my ’96 had separate second row Captain’s chairs which made things easier. They both held a lot of cargo and things like furniture were easy to carry within a closed compartment.
I wish that there was an option of air suspension on trucks that would lower the height for loading, something that I would like, though it would probably have limited appeal.
The fuel economy is incredible for this size of vehicle, particularly considering how decent the acceleration is.
The interior packaging decisions and seating arrangements look very intentional, so I’d guess Toyota is responding to market research that many people expect a minivan to move people rather than plywood. That’s probably where I fall, so the balance of fuel economy and performance would put this immediately into the top spot for me regardless of the fixed second row.
I will say this: rarely do I find a car so repulsive in styling that I would strike it from consideration, but I’ve stared at several of these on the road now and–coming or going–I find it one of the ugliest vehicles I’ve ever seen. It’s heinous, and it would likely reduce my satisfaction with it overall even if it shone everywhere else. I was hoping Toyota was moving away from this.
I’m the same way. Finally: Toyota’s HSD in a minivan…. an eye-searingly ugly one. I can ignore form for the sake of function but only to an extent and Toyota hasn’t just crossed that line, they blew well past it with this thing. And it’s not like this styling is purely driven by optimized aerodynamics or something
Thanx to the avalanche of ex JDM cars we get here its obvious Toyota build a hybrid version of everything the minivan people mover kind have been around for a while, but from the tiny Aqua to Crowns Ive seen hybrid versions in traffic even the Hino truck range has hybrid versions, love em or hate em they are popular and here to stay.
This is the first Toyota hybrid minivan in the North American market which is what makes it interesting. Toyota is starting to offer hybrids across most of the range here but usually as an option on one or two trim levels. This is one of the first Toyotas to ONLY be available as a hybrid (besides the Prius vehicles of course) across a fairly large range of trims both for Toyota as well as the minivan genre in general, with Chrysler being the only other one to offer it as an option (theirs is a plug-in hybrid, we reviewed it a year or so ago). V6 gas power has been the general go-to for this market segment for some time now.
…and then I went to toyota.ca, just for mind-movies (I’m not spending $40K to $60K on a vehicle any time soon), and found they’ll sell me a Sienna in Super White, Blizzard Pearl, Pre-Dawn Grey Mica, Celestial Silver, Midnight Black Metallic, Rube Flare Pearl, Sunset Bronze Mica, or Blueprint.
Cypress Green—present on the Sienna configurator on the U.S. toyota.com website—is absent from the Canadian offering. All three other colours and all five other non-colours are the same on both sites, but no green Siennas for Canadians. WTH, Toyota?!
My ’99 Town & Country was the same color as this Sienna. It seems like every 20 years or so a dark green becomes popular for a while. It had a good stretch in the early ’70s, a briefer one at the millennium, and here it is again. It seems to coincide with public discourse when it turns green.
I gained a lot of respect for the last generation Sienna, its powerful V6 made for a fantastic vacation rental car loaded with my adult kids and their luggage.
The non-removable seats in this Sienna are both astonishing and a deal breaker for me, and would have me heading straight toward a 4Runner or Sequoia, or darn near any alternative in the Toyota showroom. That just wipes out the versatility for me.
My ’99 T&C had removable seats, and they were heavy to the point of hazardous to remove. Within a few years, I traded it for a three row SUV, which worked out a lot better. I picked up very easy to use fold down seats that gave me plenty of utility when needed, towing power and a robust all wheel / four wheel drive train. The small loss in interior cargo space was rarely missed.
The struggle of the mini-van in the SUV world is not difficult to understand.
One of my client has a loaded Sienna just like this-even the green paint colour, which is really refreshing in the sea of black, silver, grey and white on which we sail these days.
I had a ride in it just this weekend. I was in the middle row while Ms Client drove and Mr Client was next to me. I can’t recall a more comfortable drive. The Sienna was as close to silent as any car I have ever experienced. The ride was very comfortable and the seat was supportive, and very importantly for me, not too soft.
Most of my clients drive big $$$ cars and I have been in a lot of them. They don’t make much impression on my, but the Sienna. This is especially true because Mr Client could buy any car he wanted as he’s a wealthy Asian businessman. The Sienna is just such a nice car for the money.
I just love this green; wish it had been available on (yet another) Corolla I bought in May.
And I am so happy that it is an option in the USA but not in Canada. Something nice and first offered in the land of the free! After all, it is a car built in America; we should get that cool color initially and exclusively (like we do with the pharmaceutical products developed here).
Anyway, the mini-van does nothing for me and the hybrid system even less but that green on a Corolla or a GR86 – gasoline and manual – yes! But both of those are built in Japan; it may take awhile.
I’m generally not a fan of how most modern Toyotas look… they tend to be very busy and over-styled, but this green color rocks! I’ve always been fond of greens, but it does seem to be a polarizing color, so I’m quite surprised to see all the positive comments!
I’m also pretty keen on minivans, as they’re a maximum utility with very little B.S. design, and just do so many things well. I had a 2011 Grand Caravan for work back in 2011-12, and it cemented my feelings about the oft maligned vehicles. My employer picked one in forget-me-silver instead of apartment refrigerator white, and I would occasionally cross paths with another Grand Caravan painted Mango Tango, which was that metallic orange usually found on more performance oriented Mopars. It transformed it into a totally different vehicle, and I found myself wishing that mine was that color. For one, it woulda made it easy to locate in a parking lot. It’d also made it have looked like I actually cared about what I drove, and not like I took whatever the dealer dropped on me. The Cypress Green Metallic has the same effect on this van. I dig it!
I also dig the interior color, but not that monstrous console. I might be a bit weird here, but I really would prefer something more resembling a bench seat, and a column (or dash) mounted shifter for the transmission.
Yuck, no hybrid for me. Too expensive to buy, money pit when it gets old, and I refuse to “go green” anyway on general principles.
This van looks much better looking than the replaced model, riding on more capable chassis, hope it handles and drives better than the old one.
In the summer of 2015, we were on market for a family vehicle to replace our both 2003 v6 Accord sedan and ML350. I really didn’t want to own another Honda products. We test drive the previous generation of Sienna and High Lander, The Toyota van was attractive to us, known good reliability, with all-wheel drive and 0% finance. But i was shocked to notice how bad the van drives, it remained by 1983 Caprice, very loose steering, very soft suspension and felt very large but with very smooth powerful engine — American full size car in 2015! We end up getting an Odyssey, which handles and drives much like the Accord sedan except the size. But in 2018, upgrade the Sienna with a 300 hp engine coupled with 8-speed transmission, offering all wheel drive option. Very attractive indeed, however I know it is a old American full size even Big Three stopped making.
Actually the generation 3 Odyssey was the best handling van if we didn’t count Mazda 5 super mini minivan.
A hybrid is a good idea in a vehicle like this. Most do around town driving most of the time. I don’t like the bulbous styling of this Sienna and the new Highlander. Why do the rear fenders bulge out like a 1950’s car? I love the green color. But most cars come in black, white, silver and gray now. Other colors just are not offered.
Just walked by one of these on the sidewalk in the same shade of green. Very handsome, and the styling looks less out-there in person, although I don’t understand why.
Sort of the same phenomenon as the C7 Corvette, to me at least. In photos it looks almost like a caricature of a Corvette; in person it looks good.