Wednesday, April 14, 2021
First Reviews 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid First Drive Review: The Toyota Van Takes No...

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid First Drive Review: The Toyota Van Takes No Prisoners, Only Family

The new 2021 Toyota Sienna is the smartest family vehicle you can buy in North America today


  • Pricing starts at $39,990 in Canada, $34,460 in the US.

  • AWD is a $2,000 option in both areas.

  • The combination of hybrid power and AWD traction make the Sienna unique in the segment.


Despite having grown up with station wagons, owned nine (still have three), I’ve become something of a minivan guy recently. With two rapidly growing kids and anticipating that their needs will grow accordingly, minivans have become my aspirational vehicles. And the all-new 2021 Toyota Sienna is the first minivan in a long while to get met truly excited about the prospect of owning one.

Well, that’s not entirely true… When Volkswagen announced that they will in fact build and sell the ID. Buzz, it became my dream minivan. The issue here is that it will likely be priced in excess of $70,000 and until Toyota reveals its own electric people carrier, the 2021 Sienna hybrid is the next best thing.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme


Everything matters

And best it is in every respect. Now, while styling preferences are always debatable, there is no doubt that the new Sienna is different. Some might think that Toyota designers are trying too hard to mask the fact that the Sienna is a minivan but I for one appreciate the bullet-train-meets-the-Supra design cues. My only comments here are that the “L” or non “X” trim front facias are cringy and that chrome wheels are too 2005 (on the Limited).

Beyond this, the 2021 Sienna is unequivocally brilliant. The new van is 80mm longer with a 30mm increase in wheelbase, 10mm wider but 20mm lower overall. The best new measurement is that the Sienna’s floor height is now 30mm lower improving accessibility. The cabin’s functionality is a testament to Toyota taking the job of building a truly family-friendly minivan very seriously. From the twin-grip second-row handles to the 3rd-row sunshades, all bases are covered for utmost comfort and well-being.


2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Space, comfort, and convenience

As most Siennas sold will likely be 7-seaters, the incredible 2nd-row long-slide Captain seats will absolutely please. Never has there been more built-in functionality in one feature where comfort, accessibility, and useability are concerned. Speaking of useability, the Sienna still provides an impressive amount of cargo space. With the 3rd row up, 949 deep litres of volume are reachable. When stowed, cargo volume increases to a maximum of 2,129 litres. Throughout the cabin, storage space abounds and there are connectors in all rows to plug in tablets, phones, and whatnot.

Upfront, mom and dad have access to plenty of intelligent spots to drop or plug phones, stow keys, dirty tissues, and snack wrappings. The center console creates a “bridge” to the large central bin, creating a practical location for bigger items beneath it that won’t fit in the cupholders. The Sienna is one family car everyone can comfortably move into.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

All seating positions are restful, even in the third row. If you actually require a useful 3rd row, no SUV matches a minivan’s back row of seats. The Sienna’s seats are generally supportive however in typical Toyota fashion, the front lower seat cushions are a little short. The dashboard’s ergonomics are straightforward and the standard 9-inch touchscreen display is responsive with intuitive menus.


Hybrid smarts

As for driving the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid, the mind-frame required to grasp the minivan is smart mobility. This vehicle is about efficient motoring and getting the job done. Case in point, throughout my day of driving, I averaged as little as 7.5L/100km indicated. And this, while never trying. The rated combined average is of 6.7L/100km with AWD and I believe it to be achievable.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This is possible thanks to the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre Atkinson 4-cylinder engine and its accompanying two electric motors, as part of the Toyota Hybrid System II. All told, the total system output is 245 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels via an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) with sequential shift mode. My sole gripe with the powertrain is the CVT which doesn’t actually “shift” meaning it holds engine speeds too high and for too long when accelerating.


AWD + TNGA = Good driver

AWD models, a must, see a third permanent magnet synchronous electric motor be mounted on the rear axle. Although it does not impact system output figures, its extra immediate torque is noticeable from a standstill. The other benefit is the rear motor’s 130 lbs. helps better distribute the van’s weight improving the driving experience.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Assembled on Toyota’s Global Platform (TNGA), the Sienna has never felt more together. The suspension, with a sport tune for the XSE, provides decent damping over rougher surfaces. Better still, handling and general chassis responsiveness very good. I’d even go so far as to say excellent (for a minivan and most 3-row SUVs) for the XSE FWD with 20-inch wheels.


I’m bringing minivans back

Unfortunately, no matter how convincing the 2021 Toyota Sienna is, or how wise a purchase it happens to be, it will continue to live in the shadows cast by SUVs. The losers here are not the manufacturers, no, only you/we the consumers who tell ourselves that SUVs are as functional as minivans and that, anyhow, they’re not cool.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

However, if you are cool (and wise) and are shopping for a minivan, 2021 is a good year as all models get updates. The Chrysler Pacifica and Grand Caravan (in Canada), Honda Odyssey, and Kia Sedona have all been given a once-over. And while the Sienna is only the first new minivan I drive, I’m already quite convinced it is the one to get.

As far as pricing is concerned, the base 2021 Sienna is competitively priced at $39,990 given its standard equipment and powertrain technology. The Grand Caravan and Sedona sport a lower price point while the Odyssey and Pacifica are in the same ballpark.

With available AWD, impressive fuel efficiency, top technologies, and a face both a mother and a father can love, I’ll have me an XLE AWD in Ruby Red, thanks.

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Toyota Sienna | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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