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Buying Used: Toyota Sienna minivan holds its value

In 2010, Toyota was grappling with its unintended acceleration/sticky floor mat/wonky gas pedal/ineffective brakes imbroglio. But one of the few models in the company's lineup not affected was the Sienna.

If you liked minivans, the Sienna had all the necessary ingredients, and went about its business efficiently and unobtrusively. It was also available with all-wheel-drive.

Power was provided by a 3.5-litre V-6 engine that featured Toyota's variable valve timing system and developed 266 horsepower. This engine was found elsewhere in Toyota's lineup – the Venza and Camry, for example, and was a nice fit in the Sienna. A five-speed automatic was the only transmission choice.

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The Sienna was wider and featured a longer wheelbase than its chief competitor, the Honda Odyssey. Brakes were discs at all four corners with ABS and a brake force distribution system. Like the Odyssey, it could more than hold its own on the freeway.

Toyota offered this iteration of the Sienna in five versions. You could get it as an eight- or seven-passenger model, with varying trim levels and FWD or AWD. Toyota has a habit of lumping its extras into various groups: you can't get item A unless you order item B and C as well, and options included a Value Package, which came with a leather interior, power passenger front seat, power rear door and heated front seats.

Other standard equipment included 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.

In terms of seating layout, you could fold the third-row seats into the floor by pulling on a couple of straps and pulling on a lever or two, but if you wanted a completely empty interior for carrying cargo and so on, the centre seats needed to be detached and physically removed from the vehicle. With all the seats out of the way, the Sienna offered 4,216 litres of cargo space, slightly more than the Odyssey.

Transport Canada has one safety recall on file for the 2010 Sienna, and it applies to all models, going back to 1998. The spare tire carrier, which is slung under the back of the vehicle, could come loose due to corrosion, and the spare could literally fall off. No big deal for the driver, but a bit of a problem for the motorist behind. Dealers will fix this problem, including a replacement of the entire assembly, if necessary.

To this, we can add 12 technical service bulletins from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These run from oil leaking out of the steering gear assembly, to the spare tire carrier "binding," to the "check engine" light coming on at random, to "abnormal" engine noise. Comments that NHTSA has received from owners: "Sliding side door is not working correctly," "My van has water leaking and has an awful mould smell," "When driving, the slightest touch of the gear lever causes a shift into neutral." Some 50 complaints in all here.

Consumer Reports loves the Sienna. It gets this organization's highest ratings in virtually every area. There are minor issues with the ubiquitous "squeaks and rattles" and body hardware, but otherwise, it's all sweetness and light. Interestingly, the AWD models don't fare as well as the FWD versions; premature tire wear is an issue here. Either way, the 2010 edition gets C.R.'s coveted "Good Bet" designation. Comments from owners: "Reliable but very uncomfortable," "Great for long trips" and "This is a good ride, but expensive." A redesign was just around the corner for the Sienna, in 2011, but, notes C.R., "interior quality and noise isolation took a step backward."

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Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, is equally positive, with a few caveats. In 2010, it bestowed its Initial Quality Study Dependability Award on the minivan, and the Sienna receives top marks for overall dependability. Style, comfort, and features/accessories dependability get average marks, but powertrain and overall mechanical quality get top billing.

No surprise then that a three-year-old Sienna has held its value well. You'll be lucky to find one for less than $18,000-$20,000, and there's about a $1,000 difference between the FWD and AWD versions. Top-of-the-line Limited models are worth close to $30,000.

Tech specs

2010 Toyota Sienna

Original Base Price: $29,500; Black Book: $19,075-$28,625; Red Book: $17,600-$27,750

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6

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Horsepower/Torque: 266 hp/245 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel and all-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.7 city/8.1 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Volkswagen Routan, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest


Buying Used quotes prices from two sources in Canada: the Red Book and the Black Book.

The Black Book, according to Josh Bailey, vice-president of research and editorial, has existed since 1961 and collects data from auction houses and various electronic sources. "We get as much info as we can from the marketplace," says Bailey, "and have a staff specifically dedicated to collecting data."

Black Book also lists an "average asking price" on its website which, according to Bailey, makes it different from other information providers.

The Red Book has "a large network of dealers that provide me with confidential info that I make into generic values for the book," says publisher Imants Grotans. Red Book was started in 1959 and according to Grotans, is the only regularly published book of its kind in Canada. Also factored into Red Book values is information from cross-country used-car auctions, prices at dealerships and insurance underwriter values.

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