Minivans may have fallen off the radar for many buyers, but there’s no better way to haul a crowd.
The 2022 Toyota Sienna is now in its second year of offering only a hybrid powertrain, and receives minor updates including roof rails on the two base trims, and leg rests for the second-row captain’s chairs in my tester, the top-line Limited.
The Sienna lineup starts at $41,050, including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,890. The LE and XSE come in front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). The XLE is FWD-only, while my tester, the top-line Limited, comes exclusively with AWD. It rings in at $61,180 before taxes. The Sienna is also available in four trims as a mobility conversion van.
There’s only so much you can do with what’s essentially a large shoebox. I’m not entirely taken with the nose, which looks a little odd with the hood set back behind the fascia, but the rear end is handsomely styled. The gradual slant of the side-window chrome surround makes the roofline look sloped, even though it stays straight to preserve headroom, and those in the third row get the most noggin space of any minivan competitor.
The Limited gets 18-inch wheels, silver roof rails, and a sunroof. The cabin is designed with squared-off angles and quality materials, cohesively blending form and function.
The Sienna earns the top five-star rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as well as the highest Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Automakers spend a lot of time getting these family haulers right, as the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey earn the same ratings (the other minivan on the market, the Kia Carnival, gets a Top Safety Pick without the plus from the IIHS, but it wasn’t rated by NHTSA at the time of this writing).
A full suite of driver-assist technologies is standard across the lineup, including emergency front braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic high-beam headlights, lane departure assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-centring control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and 10 airbags, plus the back-up camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles.
As you’d expect for its price range, the Sienna comes with a number of features standard in all trims, including automatic climate control (tri-zone on the base LE), a power driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, power sliding doors, towing prep package, nine-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and seven USB charging ports, along with the aforementioned driver assist features.
Moving up the line adds such items as hands-free sliding doors and tailgate, sunroof, four-zone climate control, a power passenger seat, and a wireless charger. My Limited further included ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, driver’s seat memory settings, ambient lighting, auto-tilt exterior mirrors, a rearview camera mirror, premium stereo, surround-view monitoring, and a rear-seat entertainment system with two sets of wireless headphones.
User Friendliness: 9/10
The Sienna’s controls are easy to use, with buttons or toggles for the climate system – dials would have been even better for the temperature, but they take up space, and the low-set dash improves visibility. The infotainment system is also very intuitive, with hard buttons to bring up the various menus.
The last-generation Sienna had a smaller centre console, so you could stow a pack or purse right in front on the floor. The console is now full-length and attached to the dash, but there’s still a large space under it for storage, along with more small-item space than before. And while it’s a small touch, I really like that the large centre console bin has armrests on either side, and the lid retracts whereas most swing up. The bin can be opened without anyone having to move an arm.
Practicality is the whole point of a minivan, and the Sienna is no exception. Its hands-free sliding doors are useful if your arms are full, and the large hatch and low lift-over makes it easy to load. The LE and XLE trims accommodate eight passengers, while the XSE and Limited hold seven.
With 949 L of cargo space behind the third row, the Sienna beats all but the Kia Carnival at 1,138 L. The second-row seats fold down, but they aren’t removable; only the Chrysler Pacifica has second-row seats that disappear into the floor. The Sienna can tow up to 1,587 kg (3,500 lb), the same as the Carnival and Honda Odyssey. The conventional Pacifica can tow up to 1,632 kg (3,600 lb), but unlike the hybrid-only Sienna, the Pacifica Hybrid – which is a plug-in – isn’t recommended for towing.
The Sienna Limited’s front seats are clad in a mix of faux leather and perforated cowhide, and are heated and ventilated. The second-row captain’s chairs are heated, as is the steering wheel. Both rows are supportive and comfortable on longer drives, helped along with the smooth and quiet ride.
Those second-row seats have considerable fore-and-aft travel to maximize legroom. The Limited further adds leg rests to those chairs, which can be lifted and extended when the seats are pushed all the way back. The third row is noticeably flatter and firmer than the seats ahead, but those passengers get more legroom than in any of the Sienna’s rivals.
The Sienna uses a 2.5L four-cylinder gasoline engine that makes 189 hp on its own, plus 176 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to twin electric motor-generators, and net output is 245 hp when it’s all working together. The system powers the front wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). In AWD models, another electric motor powers the rear wheels as needed for traction.
The hybrid system is self-charging and doesn’t get plugged in, and it seamlessly and automatically switches between gasoline, electricity, or both, depending on driving conditions. All of the Sienna’s rivals are V6-powered, including the Pacifica Hybrid, and make between 260 and 290 hp But the Toyota’s still no slouch: there’s enough grunt for passing at highway speeds, and it accelerates well on city streets.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Toyota has done a good job of making this big van seem smaller than it is. It’s very nice to drive, with light-but-responsive steering and smooth handling. The ride is relaxing even on rougher pavement, and it shines on the highway with its well-planted stance and comfort. Visibility is good, which helps with parking it. The hybrid system switches almost seamlessly between gasoline and electricity. The battery self-charges through regenerative braking, capturing energy otherwise lost in deceleration, while the brake pedal is firm but not harsh.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
The Sienna in FWD is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 6.6 L/100 km for city; 6.5 highway; and 6.6 in combined driving. The AWD system’s rear electric motor doesn’t use fuel but adds weight, and so AWD models, including my tester, are marginally higher at 6.8 city; 6.6 highway; and 6.7. I came in slightly higher at 7.2 L/100 km, and it runs on regular-grade gasoline.
The Sienna seriously undercuts its rivals, all of which use V6 engines. The Honda Odyssey and Kia Carnival, in FWD only, are both rated at 10.6 L/100 km combined. The conventional Chrysler Pacifica is 10.6 in FWD and 12.0 in AWD. The FWD-only Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid and when it’s charged, it can drive an NRCan-rated 51 km on electricity alone. When that runs out, it reverts to conventional hybrid operation, but its V6 rates higher than the Sienna’s four-cylinder at 8.0 L/100 km combined.
The days of minivans as cheap family haulers are behind us. Most are now feature-laden as they compete with three-row SUVs for attention, as well as far more safety features than their predecessors. The cash champ in the segment is the Kia Carnival starting at $37,695, while the Sienna lineup begins with the LE FWD at $41,050 (all prices include delivery).
Chrysler offers a value version of its Pacifica, with the old Dodge name of Grand Caravan at $46,990. The Honda Odyssey is next at $47,540, while the regular Pacifica starts at $52,790, and the Pacifica Hybrid plug-in tops the list at $62,190.
The Sienna isn’t inexpensive, but before you automatically look at an SUV for moving friends and family, take another look at the minivan segment. All of this Toyota’s rivals are good choices, but the Sienna’s hybrid fuel economy helps make it a standout in the pack.
|Engine Cylinders||Hybrid I4|
|Peak Horsepower||189 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas only), 245 hp net (hybrid)|
|Peak Torque||176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||6.8 / 6.6 / 6.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||949 / 2,219 / 2,860 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Toyota Sienna Limited|
|Price as Tested||$61,280|