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The 2023 Toyota Sienna in Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton, N.S. While other automaker's minivans may exceed the Sienna in one feature or another, it is the only one that offers pretty much everything a family could want.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

I can’t think of another vehicle that offers as much in one package as the Toyota Sienna. Others may exceed it with one feature or another, but only the Sienna offers pretty much everything a family could want.

It’s a minivan, so that will deter some prospective buyers concerned about their own image. However, only minivans offer ample space in a comfortable third row for passengers who would otherwise be cramped in SUVs. Minivans also offer generous luggage space behind the third row, making the most of the deep cargo well that stores those rearmost seats when they’re folded flat.

I drove the Sienna from Toronto to Cape Breton Island and back. The 5,000-kilometre road trip to and from the eastern end of Nova Scotia, with four people, a large dog and all of our luggage, would be cramped in anything smaller than a full-sized SUV, and even then, the seating arrangements would not be so versatile to easily accommodate the dog. And the fuel bill would probably be considerably higher.

All Siennas of the current fourth generation are now conventional hybrids – meaning they aren’t plugged in – and even the least expensive grade offers all-wheel drive for about an extra couple of thousand dollars.

The van is usually driven by the front wheels, but if the going gets slippery, the rear wheels are powered by a dedicated electric motor that kicks in when needed. This means there’s no bulky driveshaft beneath the floor to the rear axle, which helps lower the access height through the sliding side doors.

(The basic LE edition is the only version that includes a spare tire. If this is an issue with the two more costly grades, there’s plenty of room to carry a spare as part of the regular cargo.)

The hybrid powertrain is a big deal, reducing fuel consumption considerably for such a large vehicle. The claimed average fuel consumption is 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres, while the Honda Odyssey consumes 10.6, the Kia Carnival 11 and the Chrysler Grand Caravan 11.8. Only the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in electric hybrid comes close, with an average of 8.0 litres on gas power and an all-electric range of 51 kilometres. You cannot buy the Pacifica Hybrid with all-wheel drive, however.

Personally, I saw an average of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres in the heavily loaded test Sienna, driven mostly at the speed of highway traffic. The tester was the mid-grade XSE edition, which included two very comfortable reclining seats in the middle row that cut the total possible number of passengers from eight to seven. Those middle seats would slide back to almost the cushions of the third row, providing enough legroom for two six-footers and our 36-kilogram spaniel on his bed at their feet.

The only minivans that are more versatile are those that feature the Stow ‘n Go system, either the luxurious Pacifica or the less expensive Grand Caravan. Those vans allow the second row to fold completely into the floor for a vast flat space behind the front seats, but again, this is not available with all-wheel drive because there just isn’t the room beneath the floor for the extra technology. And those rear seats are thinner and less comfortable over long distances.

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Writer Mark Richardson's wife drives, with her sister beside her, while Mark and Elvis, the 80-pound spaniel are in the second row.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

There were no complaints with the Sienna for lack of comfort, though the seatbelts for the second row did lock tight on their passengers and refused to ease up. If I owned the van, I’d use some kind of spacer at the top of the belt to prevent them becoming too snug – maybe just a paper clasp. But when you’re paying more than $50,000 for your vehicle, that really shouldn’t be necessary.

The XSE is the “sporty” edition, and this year, it’s also available with a 25th-anniversary package that is essentially a few badges and a rebundling of some features. However, even the sporty aspiration and a Sport drive mode that quickens the throttle response and tightens the steering can’t save the minivan from its fuel-conscious continuously variable transmission.

I drove the Sienna XSE around the Cabot Trail and it had no problems on the steep hills, or holding its line fairly flat around the sharp curves. It was a satisfying drive, made all the more scenic by the huge windows and clear sightlines from the driver’s seat. It was not a “sporty” drive, though. If that’s what you want, get a Ford Mustang or a Porsche 911 or a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle. And when you get back home, you can tell your family all about it, and pat the dog that’s lying at their feet.

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The Sienna in Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton, N.S. The 2023 model is a sharp-looking minivan, with body creases and wheel flares to add an edge to its appeal.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

2023 Toyota Sienna

  • Base price/as tested: $45,434 / $56,423, plus all taxes
  • Engine: 2.5-litre, inline-four with two hybrid electric motors
  • Transmission/drive: Continuously variable transmission / all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres per 100 kilometres): 6.8 city, 6.6 highway (claimed); 7.5 (observed)
  • Alternatives: Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival


It’s a minivan, but it’s a pretty sharp-looking minivan, with body creases and wheel flares to add an edge to its appeal. None of it is offensive, but this is more than a box on wheels.


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The mid-grade XSE edition of the 2023 Toyota Sienna includes two very comfortable reclining seats in the middle row that cut the total possible number of passengers from eight to seven.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The cabin is gorgeous, though you get what you pay for. The basic LE grade has harder surfaces than the more padded XSE, and the Limited is sumptuous. All three rows of seats are comfortable for full-sized adults.


Not exciting, but you can’t have everything. Nor do you really want an exciting drive when you’re carrying the family and all your luggage. You will, however, get a frugal drive, no matter how much you step on the gas. The hybrid powertrain can be set to drive on just electricity but only for short periods under low load – it comes into its own when it shuts off the engine while coasting on the highway, to save fuel without you even noticing.

The engine is not the most powerful among its competition, making 245 horsepower with the electric motors, but it’s enough to handle all reasonable demands. And it’s strong enough to tow up to 1,585 kilograms.

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The dash of the Sienna. The minivan comes loaded with Toyota's latest and greatest safety technology and useful driver’s assistance features.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail


Toyota is at the forefront of safety technology and useful driver’s assistance features, and as such, all grades of the Sienna are loaded with the company’s latest and greatest. I drove an earlier model of the Sienna 18 months ago and noted that I would turn off the lane-keeping assistance because the van would wander from side to side – this 2023 model held straight and true with no such issues.

In fact, the technology saved my bacon within five minutes of first driving the vehicle, when I backed out of a parking space and it slammed on the brakes, averting a collision with another vehicle driving past my back bumper.


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The trunk of the 2023 Toyota Sienna has 949 litres of space behind the third row.

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Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

There’s 949 litres of space behind the third row, which is about the size of two sedan trunks. Fold the third row flat and there’s 2,129 litres, and behind the first row, there’s 2,860 litres. The second row seats fold up vertically and slide to the front to create space, and they cannot be removed because they include side airbags.

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The 2023 Toyota Sienna on the Cabot Trail next to Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, N.S.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The verdict

The Toyota Sienna offers all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain, either of which can seal the deal for someone who wants to buy a minivan. There’s a wide choice of options, and it’s competitively priced against its competition. On top of all that, it comes with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and retained value, making it a compelling package for Canadian families.

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