Automotive

Review: 2021 Toyota Sienna – now a more efficient hybrid by default

Review: 2021 Toyota Sienna – n...
The 2021 Sienna knows what it is, and isn't shy about it
The 2021 Sienna knows what it is, and isn't shy about it
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The 2021 Sienna knows what it is, and isn't shy about it
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The 2021 Sienna knows what it is, and isn't shy about it
Design changes for the new 2021 Toyota Sienna are most clearly seen from the profile
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Design changes for the new 2021 Toyota Sienna are most clearly seen from the profile
With its more crossover-esque looks, the 2021 Sienna is more stylish than it has ever been
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With its more crossover-esque looks, the 2021 Sienna is more stylish than it has ever been
The Sienna's rear hatch has hands-free opening, wherein someone with the key fob on their person can wave a foot underneath the bumper to open the hatch
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The Sienna's rear hatch has hands-free opening, wherein someone with the key fob on their person can wave a foot underneath the bumper to open the hatch
Minivans are some of the most accessible vehicles around, and the 2021 Sienna is no exception, with wide-opening doors and movable seats for easier access
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Minivans are some of the most accessible vehicles around, and the 2021 Sienna is no exception, with wide-opening doors and movable seats for easier access
The Sienna's new infotainment still lacks Android Auto and doesn't have wireless CarPlay either
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The Sienna's new infotainment still lacks Android Auto and doesn't have wireless CarPlay either
As with most minivans, the 2021 Sienna's third row is adult-usable
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As with most minivans, the 2021 Sienna's third row is adult-usable
When the third row is deployed, there is a large storage tub available where the seats would otherwise be stowed – to the left is a notch in the sidewall, where the optional third seat for the middle row can be stored
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When the third row is deployed, there is a large storage tub available where the seats would otherwise be stowed – to the left is a notch in the sidewall, where the optional third seat for the middle row can be stored
The third row seats quickly stow into the large tub at the rear of the van
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The third row seats quickly stow into the large tub at the rear of the van
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After a decade of solid sales, the "Swagger Wagon" has finally been redesigned into something a little more modern. The new 2021 Sienna is a hybrid by default, with the V6 powering the previous generation being replaced by a gasoline-electric powertrain. Fuel economy is good in this version. But how good?

At a Glance

  • Evolutionary changes are upgrades from the previous-generation Sienna
  • MPG ratings are vastly improved, though there is a caveat
  • Everything a minivan should be in terms of ergonomics and versatility

The previous-generation Sienna – dubbed the "Swagger Wagon" by Toyota marketing – was a competitive minivan, but was beginning to show its age. The 3.5-liter V6 that powered it was a workhorse, but not the most MPG-enhancing setup for the van. The new 2021 model drops that V6 altogether and replaces it with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors ... essentially the same powertrain that’s found in the RAV4 Hybrid and the Highlander Hybrid.

All-wheel drive is optional with this new setup, but doesn’t require mechanical components to achieve. As with Toyota’s other recent hybrid models, the Sienna AWD gains rear wheel propulsion by adding an electric motor to the rear axle.

The Sienna's rear hatch has hands-free opening, wherein someone with the key fob on their person can wave a foot underneath the bumper to open the hatch
The Sienna's rear hatch has hands-free opening, wherein someone with the key fob on their person can wave a foot underneath the bumper to open the hatch

Total system output is 245 horsepower (182.6 kW), versus the 296 HP (220.7 kW) of the outgoing model. That’s a big downgrade in power – on paper – but in the real world it translates to an improved drive dynamic. Since a lot of that power is coming from electric motors, much of it is thus available on demand at any RPM level. This makes around-town driving more confident. It doesn’t make the new Sienna into a sports car, of course, and the minivan is still sluggish at higher speeds. But if your goal is to have a sports car feel, then you’re probably wasting your time shopping in the minivan segment anyway. These are people movers, not drag racing machines (Yes, we are hoping Chrysler takes that as a challenge – ahem, Pacifica Hellcat).

On that front, the 2021 Sienna is relatively maneuverable, but anything long and tall (meaning all vans), will still largely be galumphing when it comes to maneuverability. The Sienna’s dexterity is middling compared to most in the segment, but its large windows and excellent camera views help make up for its bulk.

Fuel economy is a little tougher to quantify. On paper, the new Sienna sees a big jump from the previous-gen’s numbers. The older Sienna achieved 26 mpg (9 l/100km) per the EPA, and was capable of reaching that number in our hands-on testing as well. The 2021 Sienna is EPA-rated at up to 36 mpg (6.5 l/100km), a large boost over the previous - yet we only achieved that number when on the highway. Around town, where it’s also rated at 36, our average was closer to 33. This was likely due to the AWD system engaging more often at lower speeds. Even with that caveat, those numbers are a big jump forward in efficiency over the previous generation’s V6.

The exterior of the new Sienna is more evolution than revolution, when it comes to design. Gone is the longer nose and flat bodywork of the previous generation. Instead, a more flat-faced, crossover-like front end and more aggressive body lines and curvature mark this new van. The rear pillar is curved and angled to create forward movement, while the no-nonsense rear of the van doesn’t try to hide the 2021 Sienna’s minivan status.

Minivans are some of the most accessible vehicles around, and the 2021 Sienna is no exception, with wide-opening doors and movable seats for easier access
Minivans are some of the most accessible vehicles around, and the 2021 Sienna is no exception, with wide-opening doors and movable seats for easier access

As with previous renditions of the Toyota Sienna, the 2021 model retains the power-opening rear doors and hatch. Some trim levels include hands-free door opening via a foot wave under the side doors or hatch, but all come with key-fob-enabled door and hatch opening from afar. One good thing about a minivan like the 2021 Toyota Sienna is that getting in and out of it is easy, no matter your mobility level.

Inside, most of the changes made are upgrades or improvements over the previous generation. This new Sienna features a lower dashboard for better visibility, and the infotainment screen stands up from it rather than being embedded. This screen has the latest-generation Toyota user interface, which is sleek and responsive, but still lacks Android Auto and doesn’t include wireless Apple CarPlay either – but at least a Wi-Fi hotspot is now an option. USB ports are also easily found in all three rows in most trim points of the Sienna.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna seats seven in most configurations, and eight with the optional middle row bench addition installed. Conveniently, that middle seat can still be removed and stowed in the rear in a dedicated space, in such a way that folding and unfolding of the third row remains unimpeded.

Design changes for the new 2021 Toyota Sienna are most clearly seen from the profile
Design changes for the new 2021 Toyota Sienna are most clearly seen from the profile

Upgrade options for the Sienna include a rear seat entertainment system with a large drop-down screen with 1080p HD output. This adds plugs for HDMI and audio, so that gaming platforms and other things can be added. It also adds a Blue-ray player up front, so that parents can put on a movie for the kids. A digital rearview mirror can also be opted for, which utilizes a camera on the rear of the van to display an unimpeded view of what’s behind via the mirror ... very useful in a long-bodied vehicle like the Sienna.

Also useful? An optional in-cabin mic-and-speaker system that allows the driver to talk to others via the stereo speakers, and for them to speak back thanks to embedded microphones at each seating row. This makes in-cabin communication much easier, and keeps the driver from having to turn around to be heard better, boosting safety.

As a minivan should be, the 2021 Sienna is accessible and comfortable. The middle row captain’s chairs are very adjustable and offer plenty of head and leg room. The third row is adult-usable, though not as adjustable or comfortable by comparison. Cargo space is large and useful, and expands as seats are folded or moved.

Altogether, the 2021 Toyota Sienna is a good evolutionary step forward for the van. Pricing starts at US$34,460, with our top end test model ringing in at $54,212 with options and delivery.

Product Page: 2021 Toyota Sienna

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6 comments
6 comments
Don Duncan
"by default"? No, by realization that the BEVs are coming and Toyota can't compete. This pathetic attempt will fail. I have driven a Toyota Camry V6 for 25+ years but as soon as Aptera comes out in early 2022, I switching over and never looking back.
BlueOak
Worlds better styling vs the prior gen Sienna. Toyota seems to have woken up its styling department. But what is it with Toyota and (to a lesser extent) Honda insisting on Japanese styling for US-targeted full size minivans?

Even tho the hybrid system is RAV4-based, I’d wait a couple model years to see how it does in a much heavier platform.

That 33/36 MPG part will be a big plus under the recently skyrocketing gas prices in the US.
Adrian Akau
A little more technical data please on the electric motor and battery.
Tom Brown
If it had a plug-in electric range of 30 or more miles I’d buy one in a heartbeat (Sienna Prime). The plug-in Pacifica minivan doesn't have an all wheel drive option (their regular combustion version does). Toyota Highlander SUV hybrids have been around at least since 2008, it’s a shame they didn’t have a Sienna hybrid since then too. Nowadays though hybrid alone without plug in capability is not enough- no plug, no sale!!!
ljaques
'Ow the 'ell do you add twenty thousand dollars worth of options to a $34k car? (thud) // Needs a beak job. // I'm guessing that Toyota will continue to sell hybrids until the sale figures drop in favor of pure BEVs.
ScienceFan
With Toyota the design it is always a bit cheap red wine. If it is not horrible it is ok. Such a pity for a brand that by any standard makes the most reliable cars.