Say what you will about minivans – and quite a lot has been said about them – they are some of the most versatile vehicles found in the American car market. Less than ten models are available now, with many car companies ditching the minivan to make way for a surplus of SUVs and crossovers, but for those manufacturers still in the game, the challenge has been twofold: to capture the hearts of buyers previously unwilling to look uncool among their peers and to provide the most usable cabin space for those who already see a minivan in their future. For 2011, Toyota has dramatically redesigned their Sienna in the hopes of conquering the tough and dwindling minivan market. They smoothed out the front-end to give it a sleek, less boxy look, they added cool tech features like a dual-view rear DVD screen and backup camera and they made the third-row seats easier to access and stow. For economy purposes – both fuel and price – the Sienna lineup now has a four-cylinder engine option as well. It’s a good bid, but the true test will be to see how well it does against upcoming redesigns from Nissan and Honda.
What's to Like
A four-cylinder option keeps pricing low, and a ‘sporty’ looking SE model adds flair (think modified taillights and upgraded wheels) to the Sienna’s styling. The exterior redesign does a lot to bring the minivan up to date. Entertainment system’s wide-screen and other tech features are of high quality.
What's Not to Like
No matter from which angle you view it, the Sienna is still undeniably box-like – it’s the nature of the minivan aesthetic, after all. This doesn’t help fuel economy much, and you’ll see SUVs with better mileage numbers. Certain interior elements feel cheap, especially in the seating and console areas.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The Sienna drives, well, like a minivan, which isn’t exactly a terrible thing. Sure, it’s not a sports car, nor will it ever be, but it does the job it’s meant to do. Minivans are about comfort for all passengers onboard, and the Sienna delivers a smooth, untroubled ride in any driving situation. The transmission’s shifts are suitably soft so as to avoid any jerky movements and the suspension is so forgiving and gentle that even the princess who can’t sleep on a pea will have no problem drifting off in the Sienna. Two engine choices are available for the first time so, in addition to the six-cylinder, a four-cylinder can be chosen. It’s the less powerful option, and we’d recommend it only to cut total costs. The reclining middle seats with optional leg res...