When my kids were little, a minivan purchase was like a sneeze – you knew it was coming and you couldn’t do a darn thing about it.
Minivans were relatively inexpensive, just about every brand made them, and they were terminally uncool but oh-so functional. That was then. Now that SUVs are in vogue, minivans largely serve as sort of niche – and in most instances premium – vehicles, yet they remain the smartest family haulers around. In the case of the 2023 Toyota Sienna, its standard hybrid powertrain and optional all-wheel drive make it a niche within a niche.
It’s pretty hard to make a minivan look cool, but Toyota’s designers did their best here, giving the Sienna a healthy dash of flair. This fourth-generation version boasts an aggressive snout and boldly sculpted sides with exaggerated rear haunches. Meanwhile, the 2023 Sienna 25th Anniversary Edition tested here comes exclusively in either Celestial Silver or Wind Chill Pearl, and runs on handsome 20-inch alloys. (This tester was riding on slightly smaller chrome wheels wrapped in winter tires.)
The Sienna comes with a comprehensive suite of safety systems and driver aids. Standard equipment includes blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, along with forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping with so-called lane-tracing that will help keep the Sienna within designated markings, and adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, among others.
The all-speed adaptive cruise control is well calibrated, maintaining safe distances without abrupt acceleration or deceleration. Other highlights include the lens washer for the available wide-angle back-up camera (a conventional camera is standard), while the LED headlights have an auto high-beam function that’s very effective during nighttime rural driving.
Minivans are all about being practical, and the Sienna serves up a big helping of functionality with seating for seven or eight people, depending on configuration. This 25th Anniversary Edition gets second-row captain’s chairs, making it a seven-seater.
There’s a deep well behind the tailgate that can accommodate tall items when the third-row seats aren’t stashed inside it, while there are also hooks on the seatbacks. Unlike the Chrysler Pacifica, with its second-row seats that fold flat into the floor, the Sienna’s won’t do that party trick, nor are they removable. They do slide forward, but ultimate cargo hauling capacity is compromised. Still, there’s a ton of space inside. The Sienna will also tow up to 1,588 kg (3,500 lb).
It’s super easy to slide in and out of the Sienna, thanks to its low hip point and big doors, and the driving position is excellent, as is outward visibility. The side doors are powered and can be opened with the wave of a foot on all but the base trim; ditto the tailgate.
The second-row seats manually slide forward, allowing easy access to the third row, one which puts most SUVs to shame for adult-friendliness. There are plenty of convenient storage amenities up front plus an available wireless charging pad, but the gold star goes to the large storage area under the centre console. Both the second- and third rows get coat hooks and USB ports.
Toyota’s infotainment system with its nine-inch touchscreen looks a bit dated when compared with flashy displays in the Chrysler Pacifica and Kia Carnival, but to its credit this system is easy to navigate, the screen is flanked by well-marked shortcut buttons, and there are both volume and tuning knobs.
The 2023 Toyota Sienna 25th Anniversary Edition isn’t missing much. The seats are trimmed in leather, and the ones up front are both heated and ventilated. Second-row passengers get seat heat as well, and the steering wheel is heated, too. (That’s standard across the lineup, as are heated front seats.) Both the XSE and Limited trims get a PA system of sorts, allowing parents to admonish their progeny seated in the way-back through the van’s speakers.
The 12-speaker JBL audio system that’s part of the XSE’s Technology and 25th Anniversary Edition packages (and standard in the Limited) is a bit disappointing in this age of superior sound systems. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but not wirelessly. The 25th Anniversary Edition also gets free trials of some of Toyota’s connected services.
There’s a bit of a price to pay for the Sienna’s excellent fuel economy, and that would be in the acceleration department. In other words, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this author would gladly do without any extra thrust if it meant giving up this van’s heart-warming fuel efficiency. The 2.5L four-cylinder hybrid powertrain puts out a modest 245 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. Paired with an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT), the engine drones relentlessly when calling for some meaningful acceleration.
Combine the 25th Anniversary Edition’s solid-structure, soft interior touch-points, and numerous amenities, and you arrive at a comfortable family-hauler. The ride quality is generally compliant, and when the engine isn’t working too hard the cabin settles into a serene space, with little wind and road noise intruding at highway speeds. The Sienna’s front seats are excellent, offering coddling support for long hours behind the wheel. Second-row passengers enjoy sunshades and comfy captain’s chairs with recline function and flip-up leg rests.
Driving Feel: 7.5/10
Tepid acceleration aside, the Sienna offers a car-like driving experience with predictable handling, decent manoeuvrability, and good steering feel. Toyota calls it “sport tuned suspension,” although the Honda Odyssey serves up a more engaging and quicker experience, if that’s what you’re after in a minivan.
The Sienna offers a variety of driving modes, too. For instance, EV leans more heavily into the electric motors, whereas sport gives the Sienna marginally more oomph by relying more on the gas engine.
Fuel Economy: 10/10
This is where the Toyota Sienna, in any of its iterations, puts all rival minivans on the trailer. The Sienna comes only as a hybrid and with the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The way this 25th Anniversary Edition AWD sipped regular-grade fuel at a clip of 7.1 L/100 km during its test week proves without a doubt that, when it comes to building efficiency into hybrid vehicles, Toyota knows what it’s doing.
With an as-tested price of $55,850, this 2023 Sienna 25th Anniversary Edition AWD lines up comparably with other higher-end minivans on the market. The entry point for Toyota’s efficient family hauler is the $41,650 LE 8-Passenger with front-wheel drive. Toyota asks only $1,840 for all-wheel drive, which makes that choice pretty much a no-brainer.
Sadly, minivans suffer a stigma that many family types just can’t get past. Too bad for them. Minivans are undoubtedly the smartest way to handle the ins and outs of domestic life, and with its crazy good fuel economy and available all-wheel drive, the Sienna is arguably the smartest of them all. The 2023 Toyota Sienna 25th Anniversary Edition AWD adds a dash of flair and luxury to the proceedings. Just don’t be challenging anyone to a drag race out of the school parking lot.
|Engine Cylinders||Hybrid I4|
|Peak Horsepower||245 hp net|
|Peak Torque||176 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||6.8 / 6.6 / 6.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||948 / 2,129 / 2,860 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2023 Toyota Sienna XSE AWD Hybrid|
|Price as Tested||$55,850|
$4,670 – 25th Anniversary Special Edition (special 20-inch alloys, exclusive paint, roof rails, black badging, black leather with silver stitching, puddle lights, heated/ventilated front seats, 12-speaker JBL audio, wireless charging pad, navigation, carpeted 25th Anniversary floormats), $4,670