By on January 14, 2021



Which drivetrain would you prefer: The hybrid two-motor setup that Toyota has paired with their 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder that puts out 245 horsepower or Kia’s conventional V6 that produces 294 HP?

These are the drivetrains you’ll find in the new 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan, or the upcoming 2022 Kia Carnival, which won’t be out until sometime this summer.

The Toyota has already been selected the 2021 Family Green Car of the Year for its Hybrid System II that delivers an EPA-estimated 36 combined MPGs. No idea at this time what the Carnival will achieve mileage wise, but the Carnival’s predecessor, the Sedona, gets a combined 21 MPGs, a respectable number that the new model should surpass, although by how much is anyone’s guess.


Complexity of design may be an issue if you keep one of these family wagons beyond the warranty period, which now makes it your problem if a mechanical breakdown occurs. Toyotas have achieved remarkable longevity, and their reliability and dependability are among the top reasons for their popularity. Kia has also done very well improving their durability, so this one’s sort of a wash. I’d go with the Kia simply for the number of moving parts, and their availability five, maybe ten years down the road.

If you’re someone that doesn’t keep vehicles for very long, complexity and parts availability are not your concerns, nor is the owner who will inherit one of these machines. Compare it to the simplicity of a Timex watch, versus that of the current crop of smartwatches, which will tell you everything from the number of calories you’ve burnt while working from home, to your heart rate, and the weather outside. Yes, you may need to wind the Timex each day or replace its battery every year or so. The movement within the Timex may not have been changed as long as you’ve been alive, unlike the smart watch, whose next-gen internals are already being tested, along with which new features should be added.

It’s your call, the internal combustion engine you know, or technology no one but an authorized dealer and their technicians are equipped to handle. Which would you choose?

[Images: Toyota, Kia]

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62 Comments on “QOTD: Hybrid Versus Conventional Drivetrains...”

  • avatar

    Part count and complexity are only two variables with respect to reliability and longevity. The Toyota might end up being the more reliable vehicle. Nothing against Kia but their record is far from spotless, especially with respect to engines and honoring their warranties. Things like body hardware, interior and paint quality are some of the more mundane things that make people dump a car. I’d rather own a complex car with a sterling reputation for reliability rather than a supposed less complex car with a more uncertain reputation.

    • 0 avatar

      The Chrysler Pacifica is currently ranked No. 1 over Odyessy and Sienna. Make mine a Pinnacle PHEV that can go 33 miles without gas or 80 mpge! No buzz-bomb 4-popper either.

    • 0 avatar

      So 6 million and counting recalls for failing fuel pumps isn’t a concern?

      Like any automaker, Toyota has its own rash of recalls (has its own diesel-gate problem and also has an issue with fuel tanks in hybrids that only fill up partially and RAV4s bursting into flames.

      But yes, generally Toyota fares well when it comes to reliability,but that comes at a cost in having older (tried and true) powertrains which lag behind the competition when it comes to performance (has really hurt RWD Lexus sales).

      Also, it’s the Telluride that’s tops in reliability for its class and not the Highlander according to CR.

    • 0 avatar

      For what it’s worth, in the before times, last year, went to Japan. Everything I thought was JDM was no longer on the road…everything new above Kei class was a Hybrid….big cars, small cars, minivans, etc, was a Hybrid. I think we are getting them because Japan, esp Toyota, has a massive installed base already in the home market…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would go with a Toyota hybrid rather than a Kia V6 because of its reliability. Kia and Hyundai have had a lot of problems with their engines lately and their lack of honoring most warranties. I would prefer the V6 for a van over an I-4 but in this case the Toyota hybrid 4 over the long run will outlast the Kia V6 and be less troublesome.

    • 0 avatar

      Drive the Toyota first.

      I have very recently, as a loaner.

      I don’t debate the merits of the MPGs (they are very good), but the I-4 sounds downright agricultural when pushed. I don’t know the last time I heard a Toyota engine make noises like that.

      • 0 avatar

        Agricultural is similar to all the reviews I have seen or read. Not very befitting in a $50K Toyota.

      • 0 avatar

        When it comes parts counts, hybrids can be simpler. For instance, the eCVT in our old Prius was much simpler than any other gearbox I’ve ever seen.

        But they can be more complicated. My GM 2-Mode hybrid basically had an eCVT shimmer in between the engine and a 4-speed auto.

        Prius: Simpler
        GMC Sierra Hybrid: More complex

        That said, I drove a bunch of conventionally powered pick up trucks trucks, and you’d have to pay me to drive every one of them — except the hybrid, which drives nicely enough that I’ll pay the ownership costs. I dislike the sound abd fury of a big V8, and the hybrid system mutes it somewhat.

        I’ve also owned a Sienna, and I miss it. One of the big shortcomings of that living-room-on-wheels was its lack of a hybrid powertrain. I’ve test-driven the Pacifica PHEV, and liked it a lot — but I couldn’t pull the trigger at that price on an FCA-Stellantis product. A hybrid (or PHEV) Sienna would be a couple of steps closer to opening my wallet.

        Hybrids are a step closer to my ideal vehicle than the old ICE vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Only with the old 2.0L and 2.4L 4 cylinders.

      The H/K V6s are quite reliable, which is why the Telluride is ranked at the top in its segment for reliability.

      Also, the LS 500 (newer V6 engine) is rated below average by CR.

      Now, the Toyota hybrid system is very reliable; the problem is more if the hybrid powertrain in the Sienna has enough power to move a minivan under full load.

      Doubt it’ll have the same issue as fuel tanks not being able to be filled completely like for the RAV4 hybrid.

  • avatar

    If reliability and longevity were a primary concern, irrelevant of parts and complexity, I’d lean towards the Toyota hybrid (thousands of abusive taxi drivers can’t be too wrong). That said, I drive about 15,000km a year, so even assuming the Carnival is no more efficient than the outgoing Sedona, I wouldn’t break even on the Sienna for about 10 years (at current base Canadian MSRPs and fuel prices), although resale would pull down that break even point a bit. Still, for the sake of the more pleasant drivetrain, I’d lean towards the V6.

    Mind you, a plug-in hybrid would flip it the other way, as even 50km is still plenty for about 90% of my driving, and no gas engine will be quieter or smoother than an electric.

    • 0 avatar

      Offering a Sienna Prime would seem like a no-brainer.

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        Toyota lacks sufficient battery supply: only 5K RAV4 Primes are coming stateside this model year, dealers are getting at least sticker price. The 2021 Sienna’s hybrid batteries are located under the front row seats, not sure where they would fit bigger batteries while leaving the rest of the van an open box. The Pacifica Hybrid’s eats up all the Stow N Go underfloor space.

        The hybrid’s range/efficiency is an advantage if you live in, say, a hurricane evacuation zone. Pack up the family, Grandma, Fido, then sit in a long line of crawling line of traffic without running out of gas. 2021 Sienna’s spare tire is a $75 factory option and not readily available, retrofitting this looks like a PITA.

        Then again, the Pacifica Hybrid and upper-level gas trims don’t offer a factory spare, gotta make room for the charger and vacuum, respectively.

      • 0 avatar

        Adding more heavy batteries to something already weighty like a minivan doesn’t make much sense.

  • avatar

    Hybrids, especially Toyota hybrids have proven significantly more durable and reliable than non-hybrids. One of the reasons is that hybrids use electrically driven accessories – AC, power steering, etc. and that’s a much better way to do it. Also the transmissions are much simpler. Honda hybrids for example have a one speed transmission that’s only ever used on the highway.

    • 0 avatar


      Also, Due to the hybrid’s intrinsic fuel economy, Toyota has been able to keep the ICE comparatively simple and well understood. No direct injection with it’s attendant high pressure fuel systems, complicated burns etc. Regen braking also saves wear and tear on another common wear item.

      The mileage some drivers get out of Toyota hybrids, despite being too stoned to even bother changing tires before they poor car starts throwing sparks rolling down the highway, is remarkable. And, it’s been like that pretty much since the first Prius rolled off the line.

      While two modes of propulsion, and braking, intuitively seems more complex than one, in reality the two fill in each others’ weaknesses so well, that their synergies in practice end up allowing for a less complex overall solution, given today’s emission and efficiency demands.

      • 0 avatar

        There are 2011 Chevy Bolt PHEV in the 300,000+ miles with one closed to 500,000 miles.

        When you have dual propulsion you twice as many miles so it makes sense. But EV is less costly with a single propulsion and with battery costs dropping it will be the future choice over anything else including hydrogen. That’s why the Japanese are scrambling for EV like Honda increasing in GM Ultium.

        • 0 avatar

          Volt, not Bolt. The Bolt does not use the innovative -and expensive- dual propulsion drivetrain (unlike Volt 1, which does get a value recommendation used from me). Bolt will go the road of Leaf, unloved and little appreciated with vanishing resale to boot.

      • 0 avatar

        The A25A-FKS actually has both port and direct injection, and uses then in tandem to accomplish some combustion tricks that single injection systems cannot.

  • avatar

    What else do I lose with the Hybrid? Being able to stow the seats is a must. When we rented a Fusion hybrid the trunk was about 2/3 the size so there seems to be some other compromise with having to have the batteries somewhere.

    We keep our cars a long time but would have had no issues with a Pacifica hybrid but no sto-n-go was a deal breaker so we got a non-hybrid version.

    • 0 avatar

      The 3rd row still stows on the PacHy.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes it does, but the second row stow/storage space is gone and you can’t stow the second row, which we have to do now and then for home improvement jobs.

        • 0 avatar

          “and you can’t stow the second row, which we have to do now and then for home improvement jobs”

          You don’t have to stow. You can remove.

          Versus the Sienna and the Sedona, which have seats that neither stow NOR are removable. THAT’S the deal killer.

    • 0 avatar

      “Being able to stow the seats is a must.”


      The stowable middle seats in the Pacifica have thin, uncomfortable cushioning. I’d MUCH rather have easily removable seats that are comfortable. In the Chrysler, that means taking the hybrid.

      And then you get the benefits of great gas mileage.

  • avatar

    As a current Sienna owner (last gen, 2019) with a year left on my lease I would go hybrid. I think the Sienna is a fine van and has been reliable (not shocking given it’s a leased car) but the Achilles heel is MPGs. I’ve averaged 16 since new (granted a ton of the mileage is around town pickup and dropoff so not really its forte, but the highest we’ve seen is 24 on a long highway trip). Turns out hurtling a brick through the air takes energy.

    Realistically I would expect to see 10 MPG better with the hybrid at a minimum, and potentially closer to double around town where the majority of my driving is. Even at 24 that saves ~$900 a year in running costs and $4500 over five years – that’s a big stash of cash for any repairs.

    Also I would say hybrid powertrains are damn well proven at this point. Even the first gen prius models are still going pretty strong (well… as strong as they ever were). They’re like cockroaches.

    Note this is assuming roughly the same prices (though the current Sedona is 10-15% cheaper than the Sienna), which of course won’t know until closer to on sale date (but the residual for Toyota will likely be higher which tends to balance out).

    I also think the AWD on the Sienna is compelling – living in the snow belt even with winter tires I prefer having four driven wheels with the kids in the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Dang, our non-hybrid Pacifica is sitting at 23.6 average for mixed driving. It would be doing better if not for winter and remote start. :)

      • 0 avatar

        It’s brutal. I know there’s an AWD penalty, but I think the bigger component here is it’s the same car as it was in 2011 (basically two full redesign cycles for most cars) vs. much newer entrants from everyone else (Pacifica is a few years old as is the Odyssey). I would expect that’s probably worth 3-4 MPGs with better aero design alone.

        In terms of drivers… I think first is our mix of driving is a lot of local and parking waiting with the car on for heat, then old construction, then AWD (and special shoutout for the cherry on top … runflat tires…)

    • 0 avatar

      You are in for a rude awakening with Sienna Hybrid and the anemic 2.5l buzz-bomb, according to reviews. While some have complained about it in the RAV4, most don’t mind it in the Highlander. If you have the seats full or have to go up hills or mountains you want to spend some time in kne.

      At least with the PacHy you can +30 miles on battery. But no AWD option. The refreshed PacHy Pinnacle is a Lexus Sienna!

  • avatar

    Depends on the hybrid drivetrain. The problem with the Sedona is power, or rather a lack of it. Load that thing up with people and/or cargo, and it will struggle to the point of being potentially unsafe. That kind of compromise just not worth it to me. If they offered an updated V6 hybrid in the Toyota, or even a turbo four hybrid, my answer would be different.

    Other determining factors for me are gearbox type/design, and whether the hybrid’s AWD system is mechanical in nature. In short, I like my hybrids to offer a bit more efficiency, but I don’t want something ultra efficient if it means a significant drop in performance/drivability.

  • avatar

    I would go with the Kia. Hybrid or conventional, I don’t want a 4-cylinder in a vehicle designed to hold more than 4 passengers which is too bad because I really want a Volvo V90 as my next vehicle. Currently I have a V8 Land Rover LR4 so obviously fuel economy is not a big concern for me. In fact the LR$ is the most fuel efficient vehicle that I have daily driven.

  • avatar

    I chose the best of both worlds and bought a 2020 Sienna before they dropped the V6. The last one was still running strong at nearly 270K, and while the hybrid may be just as good on paper, nothing gives me peace of mind like proven reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      “while the hybrid may be just as good on paper, nothing gives me peace of mind like proven reliability.”

      The Hybrid version are the ones with the most proven reliability.

  • avatar

    have 10+ gen II&III priii- –
    Am grandpa of 10 and I buy these for the kids at approx 2K$/pop – Water pumps ; not the electronics but motor type tend to leak at around 1330000 mi. , – $20 fix – Had red one triangle of death couple times which equals battery pac failure Well the gen II battery packs contain 28 individual buss bar connected nmih cells – pop em apart – load test each cell – clean up bus bar corrosion – buy a $35 replacement cell from ebay & away you go . We have gone from west coast statement car to one the middle earth hillbillies can maintain.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to know these hybrids can be repaired easily. Based on my knowledge and wrenching skills I think I’d rather replace a battery pack or a self contained electric drive motor then have to deal with the greasy bits of an ICE setup with a traditional drive train. And this is coming from someone who did a complete transmission swap using a friends help.

      The tools and parts needed to effectively “fix” an ICE is way beyond most DIYers. For example replacing a clutch or timing chain is not something you want to attempt. But unplugging a battery or swapping an electric motor seems way more straight forward. My worry about hybrids is future parts availability. Newer tech tends to go thru a fast developement cycle where some ideas die before they can be established. For example things like Laser Disc or Mini Disc that just disappeared overnight, where as CDs and DVDs are still around.

  • avatar

    With certain brands I may have hybrid reliability concerns but Toyota’s hybrid system is statistically a reliable offering.

    Anecdotally the Toyotas in my social circle have been solid but they also haven’t been the zero-trouble perpetual motion machines that their internet fans evangelize about. The Kias have been okay, not perfect but again I think the brand’s internet detractors overstate the case.

    If I was keeping a vehicle for time eternal then I’d lean towards a Toyota product, but that isn’t my plan so I would probably get the one that accelerates best (which is dumb for vans but I wouldn’t be a van buyer in the first place).

    I don’t really drive enough to make a hybrid necessary. If I get one it would likely be a PHEV and just for the whimsy of the experience.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’d go for driveability over fuel economy.

    On this point, an electric drivetrain is unbeatable. My limited experiences with hybrids have not shown great, seamless driveability. I won’t tolerate an uneven, lumpy power curve every day just to save a little on gas.

    I would drive both and see, but I’m inclined to prefer the V6 Kia. The Pacifica Hybrid is an interesting alternative, though, but not part of today’s contest.

  • avatar

    I’d say hybrid. At this point every family hauler – sedan, CUV or minivan should just be hybrid. The MPGs are just so much higher, and the extra cost can easily be absorbed into the prices of these vehicles.

  • avatar

    Every Kia/Hyundai I’ve rented has felt under engineered (the chassis, not the interior) and under powered when compared to even domestic competitors. When given a choice I always decline Kias when offered. To be honest, other than warranty, I’ve never understood the allure of them.

  • avatar

    For Minivan duty, 36MPG combined hybrid of Sienna trumps V6 Carnival.

  • avatar

    I see absolute scads of 00s Hondas and Toyotas in older expensive neighborhoods.

    There are literally zero older Korean cars in those neighborhoods. Ditto Mazdas, ditto Subarus, ditto domestics other than Suburbans.

    I can put two and two together. Toyota for me.

    • 0 avatar

      That has more to do with the # of Kias, Hyundais, Mazdas, Subies, etc. sold 20 years ago compared to Toyotas and Hondas.

      And Hondas (as well as Acuras) haven’t been as reliable the past decade or so as they introduced new powertrains.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Toyota’s hybrid drive is extremely reliable, and the new 4-cylinder engine in the Sienna is — on its own — a marvel of efficiency. That said, the Sienna is still a 2-ton vehicle, so I’m wondering how underpowered it will feel with, say, 2 adults, 2 kids and their stuff inside. Also, the hybrid system assists the gas engine when needed, but what happens if you’re on a very long upgrade — say in the Rockies — does the hybrid battery exhaust itself?

    Unfortunately, 4-cylinder engines, turbocharged and otherwise, are becoming the norm for all kinds of heavy vehicles, including SUVs and CUVs because they use less fuel at idle, thereby generating higher MPG ratings on various government fuel economy tests. But there’s simply no way to smooth out the power pulses of a 4 cylinder, so they’re always going to be “agricultural.” The bigger they are and/or the higher their output the worse they are, especially when they’re working hard.

    The new Sienna apparently really does meet its EPA rating, even in city traffic, so that’s probably half the consumption of an ICE-powered minivan in the same service. if I were going to use the vehicle for suburban, grocery-getter service and if I planned on keeping it for 5 years, I’d get the Sienna.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota’s system does very well at not depleting the battery. Alex on Autos towed 2000 lbs over his often mentioned 2200 foot pass with a RAV4 hv, and the battery was never drained. He expressed surprise that it managed to keep the battery charged while under that load (500 more than Toyota’s specified maximum).

  • avatar

    For the vast majority of minivan buyers (or car buyers in general, self included), there’s not a big difference between 250 hp and 296 hp. There is a huge difference between ~23 MPG and 36 MPG.

    Kia and Toyota reliability is not a wash.

    As others have mentioned, Toyota hybrid drivetrains are a pretty well known commodity at this point. I would look at the Kia knowing there’s an outside chance the engine could grenade inside of 200k miles, no such worry with the Toyota.

  • avatar

    Toyota HSD no question, although kudos to KN for the hybrid V6 setup. Probably should offer it in all models.

  • avatar

    Easy. Toyota. The toyota hybrid transaxle is a rediculously simple planetary gearset with the gas engine and bigger electric motot sharing the load. No shifting gears. People dont know this because toyotas always called it a ecvt and those 3 letters, cvt make people think self destrcting nissan style cvt with belt and pully. None of the hybrids have that.

    • 0 avatar

      Nor did Nissan’s Altima hybrid. It shared the Toyota trans. I put 140K on one and the transmission was flawless from a reliability perspective. Not at all a sporting piece though. At heavy throttle the engine moaned like a cow.

  • avatar

    How much do you drive? If your annual mileage is only 4K a year, the cost for fuel is not much of a big deal. A long distance commuter with traffic? Hybrid for sure. I would get 72 MPG commuting home in NY traffic in a 2014 Prius. Even the morning commute which had little traffic would return 60 mpg. Frankly, the Prius drivetrain in a car with a real suspension would be a great car.

  • avatar

    I would prefer pure BEV or the Fusion drive. Who cares about V6 and hybrids anymore. a

  • avatar

    Between the two I would go with the Sienna. Partly because I’ve never had a Toyota or a hybrid , and Toyota seems to be the most reliable hybrid manufacturer… Also , if I returned to minivan market , (like most minivan owners ) wouldn’t be worried about not “setting speed records”. ( I do like the looks of the Kia a little more though)

  • avatar

    I have had a 12 Camry Hybrid since new. It only has 85K miles on it with zero problems. I love it, with one exception. That thing is scary on ice. Something is wrong with the traction control when it is on ice. Fortunately, I moved it from Boston to SoCal, so I am less worried now. Other than that, perfect vehicle with zero trouble.

  • avatar

    I’m ambivalent. I use my car for random errands, a short commute, and a monthly 180 mile round trip to my brother’s house. I’ve been averaging 750 miles a month lately and only envision that increasing slightly when we start getting back into the office. I’d consider a vehicle with a Toyota hybrid system, but not in a Toyota (the “styling” repels me). I don’t know that I’d want a “mild hybrid” such as Honda put in the Civic initially, but I’m not sure having never driven one.

    The only non-liquid fueled car I’ve driven was a Tesla Model S P95, but that was only for about 10 minutes during a demonstration drive my friend signed up for at our local Tesla showroom. It was interesting, but at $80k it was too rich for my blood.

  • avatar

    How about a hat tip to Freed Mike and I for planting the seed of this discussion????

    I’ll expand on my point of view, since it is the qtod.

    It all comes down to the reasons you gave.

    “Complexity of design may be an issue if you keep one of these family wagons beyond the warranty period, which now makes it your problem if a mechanical breakdown occurs.”

    The current Toyota Hybrid transmissions, like the FWD Ford Hybrid transmissions they are copied from are far and away the simplest transmission on the market. A fixed planetary gear set, a couple of spur gear reductions, two brushless motors and a pair of motor speed sensors.

    I don’t know the exact specifics of the transmission that will be in the new Kia, but I do know it will have at least these components to fail that aren’t present in the Toyota.

    Torque converter
    Torque converter clutch
    Torque converter clutch control solenoid
    Pressure sensor(s)
    Pressure regulator(s)
    Shift solenoids
    Control harness
    Hydraulic control circuitry

    “It’s your call, the internal combustion engine you know, or technology no one but an authorized dealer and their technicians are equipped to handle.”

    Those are the things that fail in an automatic transmission and even a simple repair is far beyond the knowledge and capabilities of most people. Driving any distance with some of those failures will usually lead to complete transmission failure.

    Yes the Toyota requires an inverter and battery to function but those items like the transmission are covered by the Hybrid system emissions performance warranty which means 8 years and 100k or 10 years and 150k if you live in a state of full Californication.

    Then you have the engine and the rest of the car and Toyota’s track record says out of warranty work is going be be far less likely on it than the Kia.

    IF I were to buy a Toyota the Hybrid or Plug In Hybrid are the only versions I’d consider since overall they are the most reliable and durable power trains in those vehicles.

  • avatar
    Voco Veritas

    As a lay mechanic, I struggle with the notion that “hybrid electric” propulsion is anything more than a sham. Everyone is blindly rushing to get on the green bandwagon, but few ever stop to consider the underlying truth about these subjects, and hybrid is one of those subjects.

    Consider the fact that over 65% of all electricity in the US comes from, wait for it, fossil fuels. That is even after NGO’s and the feds are furiously working to force states into mandating renewable energy which Texas recently learned is anything but reliable. For example, solar only works when the sun is shining which at best is 50% of the time, then there is no way to store the little electricity it generates. Wind is even less reliable as the wind is intermittent at best, plus without government subsidies that artificially reduce the cost to somewhere near fossil fuel produced electricity, wind would not in any way be competitive economically.

    This approach is almost totally driven by government fanatics who demand that we accept their green agenda regardless of whether it is economically sound. ETOH, or ethanol, is another example as it costs more energy to produce one gallon of ETOH than that gallon contains, even before discounting the value due to low Btu and combustion inefficiency.

    So back to hybrids that mostly rely on fossil fuels to produce the electricity required to power the electric motors. It becomes even more absurd when you consider that large commercial equipment such as ships, tugs, and railroad engines use, you got it, a second engine fueled by the evil DIESEL fuel to power a generator that then produces the electricity to run the electric motor! In effect, hybrid proponents claim to be efficient is ludicrous given the fact that they have to run TWO engines, not one, both of which run on fossil fuels! So my conclusion that hybrid is a scam will at least be valid until all electricity is produced from renewables which will not happen in the forseeable future. As Texas learned, having NGO’s like ERCOT and federal bureaucrats dictating how business must operate has always been and will likely continue to be worse than just inefficient, but disastrous, both economically and practically.

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