2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Review: The “Sporty” Minivan?

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We reported last year how the new Toyota Sienna minivan plans to shake up the segment with new styling, a hybrid-only powertrain, and reworked interior design and technology. We have now spent a week with the “sporty” XSE version to see how the van fits into family life.

Price of the 2021 Toyota Sienna

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On both sides of the border, the Sienna passes through LE, XLE, XSE and Limited trims, with or without all-wheel drive. Prices range from CA $ 39,990 / US $ 34,460 starting MSRP for the LE FWD, all the way up to CA $ 58,190 / US $ 48,500 with limited all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line Platinum model, priced at US $ 49,900 for the FWD, is reserved in the US for now.

We drove the XSE FWD, which sits between the XLE and the Limited at C $ 45,690 / US $ 42,000. Like the XLE, it comes with the Technology Package (CA $ / US $ 5,500), which was the only option installed on our car.

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE. Photo: Amee Reehal

Note that if you want a full capacity, 8-passenger Sienna, your options are the XE or XLE FWD. All other trim levels (including XLE AWD) are fitted with second row captain’s seats in a 7-passenger configuration.

Exterior styling

No one could accuse the fourth-generation Sienna of bland styling. With his Shinkansen (high speed train) inspired by the front treatment and Supra design elements in the side profile, it certainly stands out. I don’t mind, but I prefer the sleeker look of the Chrysler Pacifica.

The XSE is touted as the sporty option in the Sienna lineup. Exterior highlights are unique front and rear fairing designs, LED headlights with black accents, and 20-inch alloy wheels (18-inch on all-wheel drive, for fuel economy reasons). It looks pretty crisp for a pickup truck, but the test car’s Predawn Gray paint didn’t show the lines like a brighter color like Blueprint would.

Interior and equipment

Minivans live or die off what’s inside, not their outward appearance, and Toyota has worked hard to improve the Sienna’s usefulness in family life. Starting at the front, the most notable feature is the new “deck console,” a wide, tall console that runs from the center of the dashboard to a large storage bin between the front seats. The console is a useful junkyard for your gear and features four cup holders, so you can take care of the kids’ drinks as well as your own. Underneath is a large storage tray for more equipment.

There is nothing wrong with the comfort of the seats, the driving position or the cockpit of the driver’s instruments, but I thought the HVAC controls were in the wrong place. Perhaps in the name of freeing up space for the console, they operate in a row of identical switches in the center of the dashboard. They aren’t the easiest to reach or distinguish, and the labels are difficult to read in bright light.

The 9-inch center display offers the expected Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while a Qi-compatible wireless charging tray is part of the tech pack. The digital rearview mirror seen on the 2021 Venza is also included. It remains problematic in nighttime use, but is handy when the large rear entertainment screen of the same assembly falls off the roof, obstructing the view to the rear.

The new long-slide second row seats (635mm / 25in) are a triumph, however, offering excellent flexibility to prioritize acres of legroom or maximum cargo space. There are enough sockets for children’s devices and even the third row of seats receives a USB-C for charging. This third row folds up easily, but there’s still generous cargo space, as you would expect from a minivan. Good luck finding this in an SUV!

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE
2021 Toyota Sienna XSE. Photo: Amee Reehal

Hybrid powertrain

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With its switch to the TNGA platform, the 2021 Sienna now has much more in common mechanically with models like the RAV4 and the Highlander. Nowhere is this more evident than in the hybrid powertrain that is standard across the range. It is based on the familiar 2.5-liter gasoline engine that combines with the electrified part for 245 hp.

I’m sure some customers will question the lack of a V6, but this Sienna never felt underpowered. The markedly improved fuel mileage, a total of 6.5 L / 100 km (36 mpg) combined, is certainly more relevant in everyday use. We were miles away from that in the freezing conditions (-25 ° C / -13 ° F) of our test week, but previous experience with Toyota hybrids suggests you will come close in less extreme conditions.

Driving impressions

Does the Sienna XSE drive well? Yes. Is it sporty? No. The hybrid powertrain is smooth and efficient, albeit noisy at times, but at no point feels sporty in its delivery of power. Meanwhile, steering is precise but lacks the immediate, inspiring feel of the Pacifica’s center.

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Review
2021 Toyota Sienna XSE. Photo: Amee Reehal

It’s true that the XSE’s “sport” suspension tuning and larger wheels combine for a less floaty ride than is typical for a minivan. However, this is done to the detriment of less compliance on poor surfaces. Personally, I would stick with the softer suspension and smaller rims of an XLE or Limited.

The test car was fitted with Pirelli Scorpion winter tires (235/50 R20). The Pirellis performed well under braking, although the hybrid’s pedal needed a good kick to get through the regeneration phase in harder stops. We could also have used the Sienna AWD’s better traction on snow and ice. The Sienna was the only all-wheel drive minivan available until Chrysler recently joined the group; Toyota remains the only all-wheel-drive hybrid option.

To take with

Advantages

  • hybrid fuel economy
  • long zipper rear seats
  • new practical storage additions

The inconvenients

  • name athlete only
  • Tedious HVAC checks
  • a new style can polarize opinion

The new Toyota Sienna builds on the popularity of its predecessor and will likely gain new customers with the hybrid option. Its only hybrid rival, the Pacifica Hybrid, is more expensive and only front-wheel drive. However, as a plug-in, it is a different type of vehicle, offering much larger electric-only operation for a more EV-like experience. I’m not sure the Sienna can match the styling style of the Pacifica, inside and out, but it’s unlikely to disappoint on a daily basis.

Vans remain unmatched in their ability to provide space, comfort and functionality to family buyers, no matter what SUV marketers say. Renewed competition between the 2021 Sienna, the refreshed Pacifica and the value-driven Grand Caravan / Voyager, the popular Honda Odyssey and the just-announced Kia Carnival shows that there is still a lot more life in the segment. .

Here’s a look at the best minivans on the market today.

Interior and exterior photos of the 2021 Sienna XSE:


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