An old-school approach. Some may call minivans old-fashioned. The 2020 Toyota Sienna would be inclined to agree. It hasn’t changed much in the decades it’s been on sale, but it still offers stolid minivan practicality.
Plunk a 2020 Sienna next to one from 2005 and it would be easy to see the family resemblance. The shape has changed little, and the interior is starting to feel dated as well. Up against stylish (well, stylish for a minivan) rivals like the Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey, the Sienna looks like yesteryear.
But the Sienna’s fundamental mission hasn’t changed, and that means impressive carrying ability and a long list of features. Again, the Sienna is a traditionalist – you won’t find the built-in vacuum of the Odyssey or the stowable seats of the Pacifica, but you will find healthy standard features and enough customization to suit most buyers.
Plentiful power, but gas only. One of the Sienna’s main virtues is its heart. Under the hood is a refined 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 296 horsepower of smooth power. Paired with a competent eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s willing and unobtrusive.
It gets decent mileage for a minivan, too. The EPA estimates that the Sienna will do up to 19 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 21 combined. That’s on par with competitors.
But given Toyota’s powertrain expertise, we’re surprised to not see a Sienna hybrid variant. Chrysler offers a hybrid version of the Pacifica, and Toyota themselves offer a hybrid Highlander.
All-weather versatility. Where the Sienna is the undisputed champ is in inclement weather. It’s currently the only minivan on the market that offers all-wheel drive. The system is available on six of the seven trims, and it readies the Sienna for mountain excursions or wintertime commutes.
The Sienna’s other superlative is interior space. The cabin boasts a staggering 164.4 cubic feet of space with the seats removed. Even with all three rows in place, the Sienna can hold 39.1 cubic feet behind the seats. That’s a feat few three-row SUVs can match, and it makes a difference with a car full of baseball gear.
The third row is even large enough to seat adults. The rest of the seating isn’t shabby either, with optional second-row captain’s chairs that recline and come with footrests. It’s not the most modern interior, but it's comfortable.
The seats can be removed, but it takes some labor to do so. Many buyers will never need it, but there are times when we’re grateful for stowable rows like those in the Chrysler Pacifica.
Half the safety story. Like the rest of Toyota’s lineup, the Sienna benefits from comprehensive technology. A 7-inch touchscreen controls infotainment and offers Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility. A plethora of USB ports keep devices charged, and a dual-screen entertainment system with a BluRay player is optional. The only regrettable absences are Android Auto and onboard wi-fi.
Safety tech is plentiful as well. All Siennas roll off the line with a full suite of active safety features including automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
Oddly enough, it’s the fundamentals where the Sienna falters. It received decent but uninspiring scores from IIHS crash testing, leaving it short of the Top Safety Pick category (which both the Odyssey and the Pacifica earned).
Final thoughts. The 2020 Toyota Sienna ticks most of the boxes minivan buyers care about, with one big ace up its sleeve. All-wheel drive is a trick no other minivan can match, and that alone may win the Sienna a following. Exceptional interior space and a strong powertrain don’t hurt.
But the Sienna’s competition is stronger than ever, and the Toyota isn't without flaws. The Pacifica proved that minivans don’t have to look boring, and the Odyssey offers a more modern package. In a car intended for family duty, middling crash scores are a liability (though standard safety tech helps).
The Sienna makes sense for the right buyer. For families in snowy climates or those who value cavernous space, it’s a compelling choice. For everyone else, the Sienna deserves a look, but don't be afraid to shop around.
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