2021 Toyota Sienna: A Hybrid for the Whole Family

Strong points
  • Efficient hybrid powertrain
  • Improved noise levels
  • Clever interior layout
Weak points
  • No plug-in hybrid variant
  • No spare tire except on LE model
Full report

Ten years after introducing the third-generation Sienna, Japanese automaker Toyota is launching a completely revamped model for 2021. The popular minivan still features a pair of sliding doors, but everything else is vastly improved starting with the powertrain, which is now electrified across the line.

We recently were invited to a media event for a first drive with the new Sienna. Here’s a recap…

Photo: Germain Goyer

No More V6

For the past decade, the Toyota Sienna relied on a trusty 3.5-litre V6. As mentioned above, a dramatic change is in store for 2021. The Sienna goes full hybrid by combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with two electric motors.

The result is 243 horsepower—a considerable drop from the old V6, which generated close to 300 horsepower (296, to be exact). On the plus side, the abundance of torque being delivered immediately by the electric motors is really nice.

Photo: Germain Goyer

FWD or AWD

Once again, Sienna customers have a choice of two drivetrains—FWD or AWD. And that goes for every trim level on the menu. The AWD system requires a premium of $2,000, but if you ask us, Toyota should have made it standard on the top-line Limited and XSE Technology models. Towing capacity with AWD is rated at up to 3,500 pounds.

Another decision customers have to make is how many seats they want. In seven-passenger configuration, you’ll find a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row. They are mounted on super-long rails allowing them to slide fore and aft up to 635 millimetres. When opting for the eight-passenger configuration, you get a 40/20/40 split-folding bench seat instead. By the way, the third row benefits from significant weight reduction making it much easier to manipulate.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Exceptional Efficiency

By subtracting two cylinders and 53 horsepower and then adding electrification to the mix, engineers have managed to improve fuel efficiency quite a bit. Want some numbers? The outgoing FWD model achieved a combined 11 L/100 km according to Natural Resources Canada. The 2021 Toyota Sienna is officially rated at 6.5 L/100 km, while the one we briefly tested burned 7.4 L/100 km.

As for the AWD equivalent, the Sienna improved its rating from 11.7 L/100 km in 2020 to 6.7 L/100 km in 2021. We personally recorded an average of 7.6 L/100 km. For a minivan, how can you not be impressed?

Photo: Germain Goyer

Stiffer and Quieter

The fourth-generation Sienna is built on the TNGA-K platform, the same that underpins the RAV4, Highlander and Venza. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the chassis is stiffer than that of the 2020 Sienna.

Toyota also paid a lot of attention to noise levels around the sliding doors and rear hatch, which used to be a big issue with the outgoing model. Things are not perfect now, but the improvement is considerable.

When sitting in the 2021 Toyota Sienna, the completely redesigned cockpit is wonderful news for drivers. We particularly liked the raised centre console with storage underneath. The built-in armrest is a testament to Toyota’s attention to detail and focus on ergonomics. Furthermore, the overall layout looks pretty nice.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Curiously, only the base LE model gets a spare tire. Adding one to the other models would tip the scales beyond the acceptable weight limit from a performance and efficiency standpoint, Toyota told us. But considering how bad some of the roads in this country are, we wouldn’t mind trading off a few kilos for a conveniently positioned spare tire in the trunk.

How Much?

Pricing for the 2021 Toyota Sienna starts at $39,990—plus $2,000 if you want AWD. Next up is the eight-passenger Sienna XLE at $42,990. Both can be adapted for people with limited mobility in a partnership with Braun and VMI.

The more luxurious Sienna XSE and XSE Technology sit a couple of rungs higher, while the Limited model at the top of the ladder retails from $56,190.

Photo: Germain Goyer

The Competition

The Toyota and Chrysler minivans are by far the most accomplished and versatile offerings in their class. The Sienna now boasts a standard hybrid powertrain along with a choice of FWD and AWD systems. The refreshed-for-2021 Pacifica has just added AWD to its long list of attributes, which includes a potent V6, although it can’t be paired with its plug-in hybrid technology.

As for the Honda Odyssey, the mild updates for 2021 are nothing to be excited about.

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