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road test

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Toyota Sienna is a staple of the minivan market. On the road for 23 years, it has had only three major revamps, with the last one in 2010.

Toyota doesn’t “mess with a good thing,” says Scott MacKenzie, national manager, external affairs at Toyota Canada.

But Toyota has. This fourth generation Sienna has got a complete overhaul for 2021 and it’s now only available as a hybrid.

Designed, engineered and assembled in North America, the Sienna is powered by 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors. Together, they produce 245 horsepower. The redesigned nickel metal hybride battery is small and fits under the front seats so it’s not eating up valuable cargo or passenger space. It’s a self-charging hybrid; it’s not a plug-in. So, there’s no need to recharge the hybrid battery pack or spend thousands of dollars installing a battery charger in the garage. Plus, there’s no range anxiety. The system charges the battery automatically when driving. It also comes with a 10-year/240,000 km warranty. And it has other advantages compared to a gas-powered only vehicle.

The redesigned nickel metal hybrid battery is small and fits under the front seats.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

“You use less fuel, spend less money, and your vehicle generates fewer emissions,” says MacKenzie. The official fuel economy rating from Natural Resources Canada is 6.5L/100 km combined highway and city driving for the front-wheel-drive Sienna – that’s a 41 per cent improvement over the previous generation, which was rated at 11L/100 km. The all-wheel-drive version is rated at 6.7L/100 km – that’s a 43 per cent improvement over the last version, which returned 11.7L/100 km.

The Sienna comes in either 7- or 8-seat configurations. Both are spacious and comfortable like a living room on wheels, especially if you opt for the 7-seat version with two heated second-row captains’ chairs with available ottomans. The seats recline and slide forward and backward up to 25 inches for added legroom. But unlike some competitors, the seats can’t be removed or fold into the floor. But that’s not a drawback, says Stephen Beatty, vice president and corporate secretary, Toyota Canada Inc.

The Sienna comes in either 7- or 8-seat configurations.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

“With the seats clam-shelled up against the front seats you still have the capacity put the iconic 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back of the vehicle. At the same time, by having the lock-slide system it allows us to put airbags in the seats – it allows us to heat them and to give a variety of other functions that just wouldn’t be possible if they stowed in the floor or were removed from the vehicle,” adds Beatty.

In total, there are 10 airbags, up to 16 cupholders, 7 USB ports, a deep 10.5L centre console box, a power tilt and telescoping steering column with heated steering wheel, and a 10-inch colour head-up display, which shows vital driver info directly onto the windshield. There’s also a new HD rear entertainment system with an 11.6-inch screen. The screen is large and wide; it pulls down from the centre of the roof. While its great viewing for kids, unfortunately it does hamper the driver’s visibility when looking out of the rear-view mirror.

There’s a new HD rear entertainment system with an 11.6-inch screen.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

When the two captains’ chairs are clam-shelled together and pulled forward it creates a large, open space. Coupled with a wide door opening and huge side grab handles, it makes it easy for kids and seniors to enter and exit the third-row seats, which incidentally are also comfortable for adults. The third-row seats, while lighter than the last generation, are still heavy and require a bit of elbow grease to move. New added convenience features, such as a kick-open and close side sliding doors and rear liftgate, are extremely handy. Simply kick under the side door and it opens. You can also use the key fob to remotely activate the doors or liftgate, if your hands are full.

Ten trims are available in either FWD or AWD configurations. Four mobility trims, offered as FWD models, are also offered in partnership with Braun and VMI. The top Platinum trim, which includes innovative features such as a built-in vacuum cleaner and a built-in refrigerator, unfortunately won’t be available for several more months due to supplier issues during COVID-19.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan goes on sale December 1, 2020. Prices start just under $40,000.

There are up to 16 cupholders.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

TECH SPECS

2021 Toyota Sienna hybrid minivan
  • Base price: $39,990 and up (+ $1,840.00 freight and delivery)
  • Engine: two electric motors + 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, combined 245 horsepower
  • Transmission/Drive: continuously variable transmission; FWD/AWD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km city and highway):
  • FWD – 6.5L/100 km combined
  • AWD – 6.7L/100 km combined
  • Alternatives: Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona


Looks

Tiny 'hybrid' decals decorate the side and rear.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

This fourth-generation Sienna has grown in every dimension – compared to the last generation, it’s 80 mm longer and 10 mm wider with a wheelbase that’s stretched an extra 30 mm. The height is lowered 20 mm, too. Three vibrant new colours are added to the lineup including Sunset Bronze, Blueprint, and Ruby Flare Pearl. Tiny “hybrid” decals decorate the side and rear, too.

Interior

The Sienna features dual kick-open sliding side doors and rear liftgate.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Comfy and roomy with lots of technology and convenience features including dual kick-open sliding side doors and rear liftgate. A tiny marking below the side door signals the sweet spot of where to kick so you’re not attempting the manoeuvre repeatedly. The dashboard design and layout are smart and intuitive with many small and large storage compartments for everything from cellphones and tablets to purses and laptops. The second-row captain’s chairs are extremely comfortable, reclining and sliding for added comfort. Too bad, they can’t be removed or fold flat into the floor.

Performance

The Sienna nicely soaks up bumps, potholes and other degradations in the road.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Pleasant road manners; its smooth, comfortable, and confident. You’d never know you were driving a hybrid. At times, the engine whines when pushed, if merging onto the highway or passing slower-moving vehicles. Nicely soaks up bumps, potholes and other degradations in the road. AWD is a nice option – making this minivan the only AWD hybrid on the market. Plus, it can tow 3,500 lbs.

Technology

Blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are standard.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Toyota Safety Plus 2.0, a bundled package of safety technology, which includes automatic emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams, and pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection are standard on all trims. Blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are also standard.

Cargo

When all three rows are in use, there’s 949 litres of cargo space.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Excellent cargo capacity. When all three rows are in use, there’s 949 litres of cargo space. Drop the third-row seats and it jumps to 2,129 litres. Behind the front seats, there’s 2,860 litres of space.

The Verdict

If you’re shopping for a minivan, the Sienna should be top of the list! But wait for the Platinum trim to get the added bonus of a built-in refrigerator and built-in vacuum cleaner – it’ll make your neighbours green with envy.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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