When the Toyota Sienna minivan was redesigned from the ground up for 2021, they took one additional risk beyond the bolder styling and expanded array of trim options. They made it a hybrid. While this may seem not a risk, the hybrid is the only option when it comes to powertrain.
Bold moves, used to be a saying that Ford pushed on us but Toyota is living it. The minivan market is pretty small. You have the Honda Odyssey as the one to beat, the new Kia Carnival and the stalwart Chrysler Pacifica. Only the latter offers a hybrid powertrain, though it’s quite different than what we have with the new Sienna.
Styling is bolder and more expressive to say the least. Offering now a sportier XSE trim grade such as in our tester, you have an option to get a little less mommy with your presentation and a bit more boy racer. It’s tasteful though.
Ours features 20-inch wheels, LED headlamps with L shaped daytime running lights, LED fog-lights and a unique grill treatment for this trim grade. Gloss black trim spans the lower rockers, rear bumper and mirror caps too.
Inside the cabin of our XSE had sexy white and gray SofTex (fake leather) trim that was appealing to the eyes along with a healthy level of creature comfort gadgetry. The new design highlights a horizontal approach with a wide shelf across the main dash for things including a handy spot for your phone with a wireless charger.
The console is the center stage literally with a flying bridge design that has a large stowage area below it. It’s contemporary and somewhat modern, offering a good level of desk feel along with lots of cup holders, power ports and stowage between its fixed armrests.
Second row seats have an extremely long sliding range but do not come out without tools. They fly forward at the pull of a lever for access to the third row which has plenty of space for up to three people. The third row folds into the floor for a flat cargo area.
Powering the 2021 Sienna is the same 2.5-liter engine and hybrid synergy drive found in many other models including the Highlander SUV. It offers up 245 horsepower combined gas and electric here and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 36 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 36 mpg combined.
In our wee with it we achieved however 30 mpg. This was a bit disappointing but adding to the aura was the rough noisy persona of this powertrain which has to work hard to move the 4700 pound Sienna around. We wished for the smoothness of the old V6.
Handling is tight and agile on the XSE thanks to a performance suspension. It’s surprisingly grippy and sporting for a minivan. The problem is that its very stiff and jarring a ride for a minivan. On less than perfect streets, the seats and trim in the van are constantly shuddering and rattling. Not good. What is good is that other trim grades have a softer suspension.
In all, the redesign looks good to us. The interior is well done. Power and handling however has taken a few steps back from that of the competitors, particularly Honda. If you want a hybrid and are good with the tradeoffs, you will be happy. If you don’t, move along.