- Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models
- Three-zone climate control, with rear seat heating vents
- Power windows and door locks
- One-touch rear liftgate open and close on select trims
- Carpet and all-season floor mats included
When it comes to minivans, parents generally fall into one of two camps: those who are revved up and ready to buy as soon as kids come along, and those who resist for a while—until, in a moment of clarity, they realize that life would be infinitely easier with three rows of roomy seating, loads of cargo space and power dual sliding rear doors (no chance of a kid whipping open the door into an adjacent vehicle!). If it’s time to get a minivan, the Toyota Sienna is bound to tick your must-have boxes—and then some.
Our parent testers and Today’s Parent Approved editors put the Toyota Sienna through its paces and found that grocery shopping, trips to the grandparents, birthday party outings and weekend sports tournaments were so much better with a minivan. The Sienna is offered in several trim levels, can sit either seven or eight passengers and is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. We spent our time behind the wheel of the XLE all-wheel drive, seven-passenger model, and we found it nimble, easy to drive and park, and roomy enough to fit everything we could possibly need for the entire family.
Toyota is due some kudos for long making safety features standard in a lot of their vehicles. The automaker began including six safety features in its STAR Safety System more than a decade ago, including smart stop technology, vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, which ensures the full power of the brakes are used when the vehicle senses emergency braking is happening. This year, they added Toyota Safety Sense, which makes collision avoidance standard. It includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and auto high beams. Blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert are also standard on the AWD Limited and XLE editions, and available as part of an add-on package for the SE. Combined with the Sienna’s backup camera (standard on all models), these features are designed to help prevent accidents ranging from crashes with other vehicles to backing over a child you can’t see behind the vehicle.
The Toyota Sienna offers loads of interior room for legs, hips, shoulders and heads. There isn’t a seat where you’ll feel squished—although adults probably won’t want to spend a long road trip in the third row. The second-row captain’s chairs are particularly comfortable. In fact, one parent among our testers opted to ride in the second row on some trips because it was just as comfortable as sitting up front. These seats slide forward and back, recline and have armrests (bonus: the kids will look like pint-sized Picards or Kirks—adorable!). And kudos to Toyota for making the middle row seats just far enough apart so toddlers and preschoolers can’t touch each other—we all know how one kid touching another can quickly spiral into a meltdown. That said, if you opt for an eight-seat model of the Sienna, the two captain’s chairs are replaced with a three-seat bench.
Climate control in the Sienna is tri-zone, meaning the driver, passenger and rear passengers all have the ability to control the temperature and fan speed for their areas. And because the Sienna is so spacious, the individual vents heat and cool without impacting the other zones. Heated driver and front passenger seats are standard in all but the base trim, and they can get toasty quick, with each having five heat settings. A heated steering wheel—something you’ll be thankful for on those super cold days—is also available on the higher-end Limited trim.
Having a drink or two easily within reach is going to make drives significantly more comfortable, especially on family road trips. The Sienna is teeming with cup holders—they’re everywhere and they fit all sorts of shapes and sizes of bottles and coffee cups.
The ride of the vehicle can really impact comfort, too, especially if anyone in the family is prone to getting car sick. Parent testers found the ride smooth and said it felt like floating on a cloud, and the typical bumps and jarring weren’t as bad in the Sienna compared to when driving in other vehicles, they told us.
There is so much room in the Sienna. Whether you’re loading up for a camping trip or packing in equipment for Saturday morning hockey, this minivan has you covered. The rear cargo area is recessed into the floor and has enough room for both a double stroller and an umbrella stroller at the same time, should you need it. Because it’s recessed, it does require you to pull items up and over a lip to get them out, but it isn’t so difficult that you’ll avoid putting things there.
Folding the third-row bench into the floor is a simple two-step operation—and with some practice, you could probably get the job done with one hand. You can fold the entire third row into the floor or pick and choose which seats you fold down thanks to the Sienna’s multiple cargo configurations. The middle row doesn’t fold into the floor like some other minivans—instead, the seat bottoms can be folded up and the seats rolled forward, tight to the front row seats to open up more storage space.
It’s worth noting that the Sienna doesn’t have a touchless feature that opens the rear liftgate with a wave of your foot under the bumper. But power dual sliding rear doors (standard on all models except for the base) and a power rear liftgate (standard on the Limited and XLE editions, and optional on the SE) open with the touch of a button and give you lots of access if you’re loading in large items—no need to haul doors open yourself.
The Toyota Sienna delivers respectable fuel economy, especially for a minivan. Toyota says their front-wheel drive models should get 12.5 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 8.9 L per 100 km on highways. This is on par with the most fuel-efficient front-wheel drive minivans in Canada. The all-wheel drive trims, meanwhile, are heavier vehicles, so less fuel efficient. But Toyota says you should achieve 13.4 L per 100 km in the city and 9.6 L per 100 km on the highway, and our testing matched that. Plus, this fuel economy is still on par with lighter, less fuel-efficient front-wheel drive minivans in the market—but you get the added benefit of the all-wheel drive.
Positioning yourself behind the wheel of a minivan can be a bit intimidating at first, especially if you’ve been driving a car or a smaller crossover SUV. It feels big. When you look in the rearview mirror all you can see is a lot of vehicle. But it’s important to note that because minivan roofs don’t typically slope down toward the rear or inward like in many other vehicles, it feels bigger than it actually is. And the bottom line is the Sienna handles like a dream.
The steering wheel requires a light touch to turn, and our editors and testers felt confident making their way down narrow streets with cars parked on both sides. It really doesn’t take long to get a sense of the physical size of the Sienna. It feels so much like driving any other car, and backup sensors and cameras really help you see what’s around you, so any fears of navigating into a too-small space in your new, big minivan dissipate quickly. That said, if you want front and rear park assist sonar and a birds-eye-view monitor to make parking even easier, they’re only included on the Limited edition (rear park assist comes on the XLE AWD, however). If your budget extends, though, they make three point turns and reversing into tight parking spots at the mall a breeze. You can see with incredible accuracy how close you are to other vehicles, and, with a tap, you can zoom in to see just how close you are to a curb or parking line.
The Sienna is a bigger vehicle than SUVs and sedans, so it’s no surprise Toyota mated it with an engine that produces 296 horsepower and 263 lbs-ft of torque (roar). You can imagine the Sienna is no slouch when you step on the go pedal. Passing at highway speeds and city driving is easy, but how the accelerator reacts will take a bit of getting used to. Our parent testers found it was a bit light, meaning that while the pedal was easy to push, the engine didn’t seem as responsive in comparison to how far you had to push the pedal. But after a week of driving, producing the right amount of go was easy to predict.
INSTALLING A CAR SEAT
Installing a car seat in most vehicles is on par with stepping on Lego—for like an hour. But the Sienna has so much interior room that the prospect of getting a car seat installed quickly and successfully is a realistic goal. There are four sets of ISOFIX anchors (also known as UAS or LATCH anchors) in the Sienna, two in each of the rear rows. The second-row seats can be moved forward to give you more room when you’re installing seats in the third row. And for extra leverage during second-row car seat installation, you can easily slide the captain’s chairs toward the rear. Plus, the space between two second-row seats makes it extra easy to move around during installation. If you have three kids, it’s worth noting that one will have to sit in the third row.
It’s easy to see how Toyota has earned its reputation for quality. While the base Sienna comes with standard fabric seats, the LE models feature easy clean fabrics—a big bonus for families. The Limited and XLE editions come with leather, which can definitely make cleaning easier. The leather and stitching on the XLE we tested felt strong, which is a good thing because the Sienna is definitely in for a future of heavy use.
Our editors were impressed about the toughness of the Sienna—nothing felt delicate about this minivan. The knobs and buttons on the middle console and the levers to control the turn indicators and windshield wipers on the steering wheel feel substantial, and straps on the third-row seats for tucking the bench into the floor felt very durable in our tests. And a convex mirror, separate from the rearview mirror, allows you to keep close watch on the kiddos.
Both carpeted and all-weather floor mats come standard with all trims, which is really nice. If you have little kids, especially, you’re going to want those all-weather mats for year-round use because they’re so much easier to hose down when the inevitable messes happen.
All trims come with either a seven-inch or eight-inch display on the dash that controls entertainment and connects your smartphone to the vehicle’s system through Bluetooth. Toyota’s proprietary Entune Audio is also included, featuring an app ecosystem that gives you access to traffic, weather, Slacker, Yelp, sports, fuel and NPR1. The Sienna we tested also came loaded with a Limited Package ($7,200, only available on the XLE) that included a 16.4-inch dual screen rear seat BluRay entertainment system that operates like a home TV, along with a JBL audio system with 10 speakers and two sets of wireless headphones. The problem with these entertainment features: they’re outdated. Most auto manufacturers make Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available so you can easily and seamlessly connect your smartphone and the vehicle’s entertainment system. As for the BluRay package, my kids thought the screen was cool but had no interest in watching my “vintage movie discs.” They opted for their iPads every time.
On the plus side, the Toyota Sienna packs in a lot of family-friendly tech. All models feature Siri Eyes Free, which allows you to do anything Siri can control. If you opt for the XLE AWD trim, the entertainment system also features SMS-to-speech and email-to-speech so your texts and emails can be read aloud to you while you’re driving. And we’d be remiss to not mention Toyota’s Driver Easy Speak loudspeaker that uses a microphone to project your voice to passengers in the third row—no more yelling at the kids in the back.
The Sienna also comes with Entune Safety Connect in all models except for the base trim. This includes stolen vehicle locator, auto collision notification to a Toyota Safety Connect response centre agent if it detects an accident, an emergency assistance button and roadside assistance on a three-year subscription.
Price and budget are big factors for families in the market for a new vehicle. The Toyota Sienna’s pricing (from $34,690) is comparable to other minivans offering similar fuel economy and quality. Minivans are inherently family-friendly, but the Sienna is one of our top picks for its overall ease of use and quality, as well as its range of safety features and good fuel economy. Plus, it’s the only minivan in Canada to offer all-wheel drive in some trims.
Our testers raved about the quality of the Sienna, from the comfort of the seats to the interior’s materials. They appreciated both the all-wheel drive option and good fuel economy in this class. The Sienna also received top marks for its ease of use. Getting babies in and out of the Sienna was easy, thanks, especially, to the ability to open the side doors with just a touch of a button. What particularly stood out for our testers was how easy it was to drive: Navigating around city streets was a breeze and getting it up to highway speeds is effortless. One tester noted that she felt very safe behind the wheel of the Sienna given the numerous safety features included in the minivan. The cargo space is really generous, making it ideal as a primary vehicle for a busy family with a lot of activities to get to.
- Three rows
- 7 passengers (or an option for 8 in the FWD LE and FWD SE)
- Anchors for 4 car seats (2 in middle row, 2 in rear)
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES
- Toyota Safety Sense includes Pre-collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (helps you maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead) and Auto High Beam
- 8 airbags
- Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) prevents wheelslip and loss of traction
- Traction Control helps maintain traction in wet or icy conditions
- Tire pressure warning
- FWD city: 12.5 L/100 km
- FWD highway: 8.9 L/100 km
- AWD city: 13.4 L/100 km
- AWD highway:9.6 L/100 km
ENGINE, HORSEPOWER, TOWING
- 3.5-litre, 6-cylinder engine
- 296 horsepower
- 454-kg (1,000-lb.) towing capacity on the 7 Passenger V6 and XLE models
- 1,585-kg (3,500-lb.) towing capacity on all other models