Toyota Sienna vs. Toyota Highlander

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - April 16, 2021

The Toyota Highlander ranks among the nation’s bestselling three-row SUVs. Practicality, safety, and an available hybrid powertrain have helped make it a family favorite.

The Highlander has a new challenger, and it comes from just across the showroom. The redesigned Toyota Sienna now has a hybrid powertrain of its own, and it’s here to tempt family buyers. We compared the two side by side to declare a victor based on key specs and features.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Toyota Sienna & the Toyota Highlander »

What the Sienna Gets Right

The two models are close in price, but an entry-level Toyota Sienna is slightly cheaper. That makes the Sienna a relatively good value, especially as it comes with a nine-inch infotainment system (against the Highlander’s eight).

If you routinely carry more than three passengers, a minivan will always outclass an SUV. The Sienna’s third-row offers more than 10 inches of extra legroom over the Highlander. Adults can sit in the way back in relative comfort.

Maximum cargo space is another win for the Sienna. Even though the second row isn’t removable, the Sienna has over 100 cu ft of capacity with everything folded. For large objects or hardware-store runs, the extra space can be handy.

Finally, the Sienna keeps up with the Highlander in some important areas. The new Sienna benefits from a hybrid powertrain that gets 35 mpg combined, matching the rating of the Highlander Hybrid. Unlike some minivans, the Sienna is available with all-wheel drive.

What the Highlander Gets Right

Although the Toyota Sienna starts slightly cheaper than the Highlander, the price gap reverses in the upper trims. Above the XLE level, the equivalent Highlander is significantly cheaper than the Sienna.

While the Sienna’s new hybrid powertrain is thrifty, the Highlander offers more options. In addition to the Highlander Hybrid, Toyota offers the SUV with a 3.5-liter V-6 making 295 horsepower. It adds significant grunt and allows the Highlander to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

In addition to the towing capacity, the Highlander is a more capable all-weather vehicle. It offers a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system on the upper trims, and its eight inches of clearance make it the better off-road vehicle.

Toward the top of the trim ladder, the Highlander offers more luxury than the Sienna can manage. Optional features like a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, heated and cooled front seats, and a head-up display make it a reasonable alternative to luxury badges.

The Right Tool for the Job

These two models have much in common, but they’re built for different purposes.

The Sienna is a straightforward family hauler. If you need to carry more than five, or you need room for gear from the whole soccer team, a minivan is the right choice. The Sienna competes against family favorites like the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica, and generally acquits itself well.

With its powertrain options and higher clearance, the Highlander is a more versatile choice. It won’t carry seven in quite the same comfort as the Sienna, but it’s the clear choice for towing or rough conditions.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander

Both these vehicles are practical, thrifty, and safe. The choice between them comes down to a buyer’s needs. The Highlander gets our nod for its versatility and capability, but the Sienna is worth a look for family duty. We expect both to remain strong sellers.

Take a closer look at the Toyota Sienna »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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