By on May 18, 2020

Long overdue for a revamp, the fourth-generation Toyota Sienna bowed today, ditching the previous model’s 3.5-liter V6 engine in favor of a more fuel-conscious alternative.

Before, the long-running minivan offered buyers the option of braving wintry weather or semi-rugged excursions with the confidence of all-wheel drive. That option remains — but it’s coupled with a standard feature previous Sienna buyers couldn’t get their hands on: a hybrid powertrain.

Yes, like the 2021 Venza that also appeared Monday, the revamped, re-platformed 2021 Sienna bows with a standard hybrid system, though in this case, only it only involves the rear axle if the buyer chooses. This AWD setup, available to buyers of all trims, plunks an electric motor atop the rear axle. Toyota’s adoption of e-axle technology omits the need for a transfer case and propshaft.

If front-drive suits you just fine, save some cash and say “no” to AWD. There’ll still be two electric motors up front, supplementing the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder and helping provide a combined output of 243 horsepower.

No, you won’t be able to plug this thing in and cruise for miles on electric power alone, but you will see 33 mpg in combined driving, Toyota claims. That estimated figure comes in 3 mpg higher than the combined figure for Chrysler’s plug-in hybrid Pacifica model (when operating in normal hybrid guise).

Besides adding sometimes necessary grip out back, Toyota says the electrified rear axle aids in tamping down understeer and can dial up 80 percent of the vehicle’s torque under certain situations — perfect for ecologically conscious parents who like selecting “sport” mode before recklessly hustling their offspring to Montessori. Indeed, Toyota’s so proud of its new minivan, it’s offering it in sporty XSE trim, in addition to the pedestrian and volume LE and XLE and high-zoot Limited and (new) Platinum.

Going XSE brings to the table exterior styling enhancements like omitted front side vents and a wider lower air opening, as well as 20-inch wheels (a size shared with Platinum).

Notice that we’ve gone the whole article without mentioning styling. It’s a minivan, after all, but Toyota’s new visage for the Sienna is worthy of mention, if for no other reason than to highlight the massive lower grille. Like its Lexus sister division, Toyota’s vehicles aren’t afraid of opening wide. The Sienna’s greenhouse and rear fender bulges also call to mind its Highlander platform mate.

Come to think of it, from the Avalon-worthy maw and Mirai and Prius-reminiscent bodyside lines, to the taillight-adjacent faux rear vents ripped from a Camry, this thing has visual corporate DNA on offer everywhere you look.

Inside, the standard infotainment touchscreen is a 9-inch unit; between the front seats lies a “Bridge console” that “elegantly connects the instrument panel to the center armrest.” Toyota goes on to say that the feature “enables the driver to have a more stress-free and comfortable driving experience.”

Cupholders and shifter above, storage below.

What it doesn’t say is that the feature, like the model’s exterior styling cues, available AWD, and SUV-mention-heavy marketing copy, seems tailor-made to fool drivers into thinking they’re not in a minivan. The segment’s on the decline, and with it, the Sienna’s sales. Being able to unbuckle and bolt into the backseat without leaving the vehicle or hopping a console or seat was an ability reserved solely for van drivers. With the bridge console, the effect is like being behind the wheel of a CUV.

Rear-row seating offers up options. In LE and some XLE trims, the second row boasts a stowable middle seat, bringing occupant capacity up to eight. Otherwise, you’re looking at twin captain’s chairs with 25 inches of fore-and-aft slide capability. In Limited and Platinum guise, these chairs come with ottomans. Maybe I spoke too soon about the non-existence of luxury minivans.

As for safety features, this minivan won’t force you to move up a trim to get a modest protection package. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert is standard, as is a rear seat reminder. So too is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which bundles together a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane trace assist, automatic high beans, and road sign detection.

Pricing for the 2021 Sienna will likely reflect all this new standard kit, but we don’t know for sure just yet. Toyota’s keeping pricing info under wraps until closer to the model’s on-sale date later this year.

Will the Sienna’s new body, greater efficiency, and SUV-mimicking interior reverse the model’s falling fortunes? Time will tell, but, like with the sedan segment, one can’t help but look around, see the writing on the wall, and be pessimistic.

[Images: Toyota]

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33 Comments on “2021 Toyota Sienna: Have It Your Way...”

  • avatar

    Can you drive it through shallow water and feed it krill?

  • avatar

    “Toyota says the electrified rear axle aids in tamping down understeer”
    “it’s offering it in sporty XSE trim”

    By the laws of the internet this means I can fairly critize it if it isn’t sporty enough. I’d say it needs to be at least CX-9 level to cash those checks.

  • avatar

    Not having removable 2nd row seats is a huge drawback. It’s the 1 reason I didn’t consider the Kia Sedona back when van shopping. I think it’s the only blunder toyotas making with the new Sienna but it’s a huge one and enough to steer me to another odyssey if I was van shopping again.

    Also not a fan of the bridge between the center console and dash. It’s a waste of space and makes the rear inaccessable from the front without exiting the vehicle.

  • avatar

    Dozens and dozens sold!

  • avatar

    Does it still ride and handle like an early ’90’s Oldsmobile?

  • avatar

    -No V6.

    -No removable 2nd row. Insane omission.

    -No value to the “bridge console” but loss of valuable room in that area.

    -Whatever you think of the styling, it’s certainly more polarizing than the current one.

    A disappointing effort. Every change has made it less useful as a van. They won’t lure back SUV buyers by half-assing an SUV out of it, so why not stick with the minivan traits that the remaining loyalists like?

  • avatar

    I would describe the styling as “blobulous”. Still, if I were in the market for a minivan, I would probably consider it simply due to the dearth of options.

    I will say that I like the bridge console, however, I question the wisdom of storage right next to the footwell, you know, where things falling out and sliding around under the brake or accelerator pedals are “bad”, Toyota should know something about things getting stuck under those pedals by now…..just sayin.

    • 0 avatar

      The storage under the bridge console is for purses, full stop, and the ridges at the bottom are sufficient to keep them in place.

      Our Bolt has the same arrangement and it works absolutely perfectly for my wife’s purse.

      • 0 avatar

        Our ’08 has the fold-down (folds against the driver’s seat) center console (really just a table with cupholders and a tiny, shallow cubby). The thing folds down to allow passage from the front passenger rearward, but we’ve rarely folded it down in nine years. My wife usually stows her purse under it.

      • 0 avatar

        Even if it were labeled as “Purse Storage”, which it is not, I am confident it will be used for a variety of things. Just sayin, the ridges cant stop every incident.

  • avatar

    I nver had the need to remove the second row seats in the 2010 Sienna I had. I was handy to fold them forward. In some cases it would be handy i.e. if it was one’s primary workhorse.
    I’m not a fan of that centre console either. I don’t like them in pickups either.
    Minivans are the best value out there for a family vehicle. Too bad the “mommy-blogger” crowd thinks they are “uncool”. Most larger CUV’s don’t offer the same family convenience of a minivan. The only thing that comes close in functionality is a pickup but even “small” pickups are much longer.

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve had a 2008 LE for nine years, and I think I’ve removed the second seats (ours is an eight-seat van) maybe twice. Last week my oldest daughter and I made a 700+ round trip to retrieve the last of her stuff from her rent house this college year (she came home in March when COVID-19 caused all classes to go online, and had brought some stuff home already).

      I waffled on removing the second seats, then decided to just fold them up. We managed to fit the disassembled daybed and mattress, old 46″ flat screen and stand, and lots of other stuff in the van.

  • avatar

    I gotta say this COVID thing has got me thinking more and more about replacing our old minivan with something better. This would definitely be a step up from the 09 Chrysler and its 18mpg.

    We were flying and renting cars 2-3 times a year to see family in FL and NY but at this point I would rather drive it as long as it is less than 24 hrs away.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When loaded, these things are $50k. I don’t know who justifies buying $50k minivans.

    Slightly used and depreciated, and without all the bling, they are a lot more reasonable. I paid $17k ($20k in today’s dollars) for my 09 Sedona in 2010. And the middle row comes out. :)

    This Sienna feels like it’s made to appeal to regulators. Without some improvement in driving dynamics, the extra cost of the hybrid stuff hardly seems worth it.

    • 0 avatar

      Many of the new Toyota Hybrids are indeed “worth it”. The extra price paid for the Hybrid equivalent model is getting smaller each year. The offset occurs after ~3 years of operation, depending on the use case and the price of fuel of course.

  • avatar

    I’m assuming from the picture that the “bridge console“ incorporates the inboard armrests for the front seats. That has been a dealbreaker on all the SUVs my wife and I have test driven. She is short, so she raises the seat height and has to move the seat far forward to reach the pedals, which then place’s the fixed center consul armrest below and behind her. She loves her current sienna because the same maneuver brings the armrest with the seat since it is attached.
    The Sienna we drive has a removable center console that we took out when the children were in car seats so my wife could get to the back from her front passenger seat. 14 years later, we’ve never put the console back and instead have a trashcan in its place – which is probably the single most important modification I’ve made to the van. The kids are able to throw away all their garbage instead of tossing it on the floor. In fact, I don’t know why auto makers don’t incorporate a convenient little trashcan into the design of minivans.

  • avatar

    Wow, the front and back..can scare children at night. No V6? Must be they mean only in the begining at the introduction?

  • avatar

    Our family has a 2017 Pacifica — the stow-and-go seats sealed our decision to go with Pacifica over the Honda we cross-shopped — on this Sienna the lack of a removable second row would be a total dealbreaker. We bought a minivan because it’s so damn useful — with kids, with yard work, with moving lots of stuff around. Neither my wife or I care about SUVs — we are the target audience — all trying to pretend that your minivan is an SUV Is going to do is alienate “minivan people” — it’s not going to win over crossover shoppers.

  • avatar

    Our Sienna’s second row seats are in the van about 5% of the time, so the new one is a non-starter.

    So now the decision becomes whether we buy the last of the current version, or go with the smallest Transit AWD with the hot rod EcoBoost v6?

    • 0 avatar

      Go odyssey or pacifica/voyager or grand caravan!

    • 0 avatar

      The smallest Transit is exactly a few inches too tall to park in any underground lot in the whole wide world whatsoever….. And that’s the rwd. If the awd is lifted, like the Sprinter, I assume it gets even worse….

      Crazy thing is, the same now holds for the latest 4wd HD pickups from Ford and GM as well.

      While the stereotypical HD pickup and Van buyer isn’t some city slicker slinking from parking structure to parking structure, a lot of people occasionally do need to park in a city. Someone, somewhere, should build a Van for those guys. The current Ram HD (non Power Wagon..) is low enough to limbo under 80 inch beams. It’s not that impossible.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Impressive move with standard hybrid technology. Apparently Toyota is not counting on Trump re election and further rollback of CAFE. They should give customers an appearance package option which will include repair and repaint of the black hole upfront.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, the outgoing generation has been in production since 2010. No matter what happens, Toyota can pretty safely bet Trump won’t be in office by the time this new generation goes out of production. Plus, even without CAFE requirements, it’s still strong product differentiation, both with the good efficiency, and because Toyota’s hybrids have typically been very reliable.

  • avatar

    This powertrain will do fine, but I won’t own one, because I don’t like the sound of four-cylinder engines and there are other choices.

    I currently have a 2016 Highlander Hybrid with the old V6/hybrid powertrain. It returns far less impressive fuel mileage than this one, but the V6 is just so smooth and refined, and sounds so much more like luxury than this four ever could. If Toyota had made a V6 hybrid Sienna, it would have been on my short list when I bought the Highlander, and it would be on my short list whenever the time comes to replace it. As is, my preferred minivan would be the V6-powered Pacifica Hybrid.

  • avatar

    We had a last gen Chrysler 200 rental with a bridge console like that. Absolutely hated it.

    I know the ROW wants it, but I really don’t need AWD here in Wisconsin. They keep the roads pretty clear and if I really need to get somewhere, the truck has Blizzaks. Unless the roads are closed, then AWD doesn’t help either and the roads open up as soon as the blizzard is over.

    That said, we are minivan shopping Thursday. Will cross this one off the list.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I can see alot of these Sienna in fleet use. The second row seats of a nice minivan are worlds better than the back of a Town Car with 250k miles on it.With the darn near bullet proof reputation of the Toyotas hybrid already tested globally in Prii taxis.
    Myself , one of the minority who shelled out that much cash for a Limited Premium, I was cross shopping Tahoes, qx80s,etc. All of a sudden 50k isn’t so bad when consider passenger volume/cargo volume and AWD, which we prefer.
    I probably won’t buy one though because Sienna’s are buy and hold cars.I’m sure it will handle much better than mine though, with the new platform. Ours is a wet noodle.

  • avatar

    That has to be (IMO) one of the most awkward side profiles ever, and the mish-mash at the rear end isn’t helping at all! But then of course, you only have to look at it as you approach; once inside you won’t notice the UGLY!!!

  • avatar

    “Have it your way”? Not sure why you think that.

    No more V-6 option, 4-cylinder only, hybrid only. Unsure if the second row of seats can be removed. No mention of whether the middle middle seat can be slid forwards, as in earlier models.

    Sounds like we’ll have to go used when we replace our current vehicle. Whether it’s a minivan equipped the way we want or a midsize sedan with a six or manual with the optional engine, why do I keep finding myself thinking that lately?

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