Here's some good news from Toyota. The 2010 Sienna is not one of the models affected by the company's massive recall over sticky gas pedals.
With that out of the way, here another other bit of news. A new 2011 Sienna is right around the corner; so this means you should be able to find a deal on the 2010 model, as is often the case when the new replaces the old.
Still, aside from being anonymous and unexciting, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the 2010 Sienna - if you like minivans. It has all the necessary ingredients, and goes about its business efficiently and unobtrusively. It's also the only minivan on the market available with all-wheel-drive, although my tester was a FWD model, with a few extras.
Regardless of how many wheels do the propelling, all 2010 Siennas are powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 engine that features Toyota's variable valve timing system and develops 266 horsepower. It's mated to a five-speed automatic only, and is a titch livelier than its closest rival, the Honda Odyssey in the performance department.
Like the Odyssey, the Sienna has its shift lever located on the dash, front and centre, and in terms of "kick-down" passing power and off the line grunt, it definitely feels livelier than the Honda. This could be explained by the fact that the Sienna is almost 100 kilograms lighter, which may also account for the fact that it has superior fuel economy in town. This engine, by the way, is found elsewhere in Toyota's lineup - the Venza and Camry, for example, and no complaints here in terms of performance.
That said, the Odyssey seems to have a more stable feeling at higher speeds; it is longer and heavier, but the Sienna is wider and features a longer wheelbase, so go figure.
Brakes are discs at all four corners with ABS and a brake force distribution system. You're not likely to fling this particular vehicle through the corners or run it over a slalom course, but, like the Odyssey, it can hold its own on the freeway.
Toyota is offering the Sienna in five different versions for 2010. In a nutshell, you can get it as an eight- or seven-passenger model, with varying trim levels and FWD or AWD. My CE seven-passenger starts at just under $34,000, and with the addition of the $2,070 Value Package, which includes leather interior, power passenger front seat, power rear door and heated front seats, among other things, goes out the door for about $37,500.
Most of the above-mentioned items, quite frankly, are superfluous, with the exception of the heated front seats, which should be standard issue or, at the very least, stand-alone options. Toyota has a sneaky habit of lumping its extras into various packages - you can't get item A unless you order item B and C as well - and it should stop it. If I want heated seats and only heated seats, let me pay the extra couple of hundred bucks and give them to me.
Other standard equipment on this model includes one-touch up/down power driver's seat window, cruise control, power side doors, a "conversation mirror," steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls and one of my favourites, front-seat armrests. I would buy this vehicle for the latter feature alone, were I in the market for a minivan.
In terms of seating layout, you can fold the third-row seats into the floor by pulling on a couple of straps, but if you want a completely empty interior for carrying cargo and so on, the centre seats must be detached and physically removed from the vehicle. It's not that hard to do, but Chrysler still leads the way here with its Stow 'N Go system, which lets you fold the centre seats right into the floor.
With all the seats out of the way, the Sienna offers 4,216 litres of cargo space, which is actually slightly more than the Odyssey. I struggled slightly with the third-row seats, but I'm sure one would get used to them eventually.
It's no secret that minivans have fallen out of favour with buyers these days. Whether it's because of the new popularity of SUV-crossovers, or because they're so un-sexy, the field has narrowed to five competitors, three of which are more or less identical. Both the Nissan Quest and Hyundai Entourage have been discontinued, and there may be more fatalities on the way.
That's a shame, because in terms of drivability, performance, versatility, and usefulness, minivans have never been better. I'll take one over most crossovers any time.
2010 TOYOTA SIENNA CE
Type: Seven-passenger minivan
Base Price: $33,990; as tested: $37,550
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Horsepower/Torque: 266 hp/245 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.7 city/8.1 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Honda Odyssey, Volkswagen Routan, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona