The word “swagger” isn’t one that leaps to mind when you hear the term minivan, but Toyota hopes its just-announced 2021 Sienna changes that. Perhaps Toyota coined the term “swagger wagon” to wipe away reminders that minivan sales are in the dumpster, and many reviewers contend Sienna rates way behind the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Kia Sedona.
Sure, Toyota has top sales with many models, including Camry, RAV4, and Prius. Still, the Sienna minivan is consistently bested by the Honda Odyssey in several reviews and surveys, including a recent MotorTrend review. They note the Odyssey has better legroom, better crash test performance, better cargo space, better acceleration, better fuel economy – the list of “betters” goes on. That’s not to say the Sienna had no pluses. It has a base model that comes with an array of standard safety features, a rarity for the budget-conscious minivan shopper, noted MotorTrend.
That’s something. But not enough. Toyota is usually the one leading the pack, not an also-ran. This fourth-generation Sienna, which is just now rolling into showrooms, is designed to change that. This is the model’s first full overhaul in a decade, and Toyota went all out, especially with its hybrid-only powertrain.
Minivan sales dropped 37 percent in the first three quarters of 2020, according to an analysis at CarSalesBase.com. In fact, minivans are now only 1.9 percent of the overall car market. Compare that to the 47.4 percent of SUV sales in 2019, said Tom Libby, automotive analyst at IHS Markit, as quoted in the New York Times. Libby also predicted SUVs, vans, and pickups, which make up seven percent of the current market, will total 78.5 percent in 2025.
And, who’s going to buy a minivan? Sure, it appeals to many segments, but the Gen X and Millennial crowds (i.e., parents of young kids) are the likely buyers. Yet those demographics often bypass minivans for sedans while members of Generation Z might be more likely to go for a small SUV. Still, Millennials plan to keep their new vehicles for just about five years (think, “once the kids are older”). Once that time is up, some of their most significant concerns are with a given vehicle’s environmental impact, features, and tech.
And this is where Toyota is likely trying to go with the 2021 Sienna.
In what we imagine is a “no vehicle in our lineup gets left behind” mindset, Toyota has reworked the Sienna, so it has a shot at the blue ribbon. “This is an all-new vehicle from the ground up, including a new chassis platform as well as a new electrical platform,” said Sienna Chief Engineer Monte Kaehr. “The development of the fourth generation Sienna was a huge undertaking but we always worked towards one single mission – to make the best van yet.”
Toyota Sienna: What’s New for 2021
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is all about personalization and having lots of features at your disposal. Consider this brief rundown of standard features for each trim level, which we grabbed from this more detailed PDF document. The MSRP figures below include the additional $1,175 for destination and handling.
Powertrain & Starting MSRP
FWD 8-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($35,635)
AWD 8-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($37,635)
Outside: LED headlights and daytime running lights with auto on/off feature, LED taillights, black grille, color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators, dual power sliding side doors, power lift-gate with jam protection, and 17-inch alloy wheels with P235/65R17 tires.
Inside: Three-zone automatic climate control with separate rear digital control panel, backup camera, an eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat, second-row bench for eight-passenger seating with stowable center seat, and a stowable third row.
Powertrain & Starting MSRP
FWD 8-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($40,925)
FWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($40,925)
AWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT (49,925)
Outside: LED headlights and daytime running lights with auto on/off feature, LED foglights, LED taillights, black grille, color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators, hands-free dual power sliding side doors, liftgate with jam protection, and 17-inch alloy wheels with P235/65R17 tires.
Inside: Four-zone automatic climate control with separate rear digital control panel, backup camera, Softex heated front seats, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, Softex second-row bench to accommodate eight passengers with a stowable center seat, and a stowable third row.
Powertrain & MSRP
FWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($43,175)
AWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($43,935)
Outside: LED headlights and LED strip daytime running lights with auto on/off feature, LED foglights, LED taillights, black side rocker panels, sporty black mesh front grille, black heated power outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators, hands-free dual power sliding side doors, liftgate with jam protection, 18-inch wheels (AWD) or 20-inch wheels (FWD).
Inside: Four-zone automatic climate control with separate rear digital control panel, backup camera, Driver Easy Speak system, SofTex sport-trimmed heated front seats with seatback pockets, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar, four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, SofTex sport-trimmed second-row captain’s chairs with super-long-slide feature (that extends to the dashboard), and a stowable third row.
Powertrain & MSRP
FWD 7-passenger Hybrid CVT ($48,875)
AWD 7-passenger Hybrid CVT ($49,675)
Outside: LED headlights and LED strip daytime running lights with auto on/off feature, LED foglights, LED taillights, black side rocker panels, chrome roof rails, and color-keyed heated power auto-dimming outside mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators. The outside mirrors have puddle lights, a power-fold feature, and tilt downward when the Sienna is put into reverse. The Limited also comes with 18-inch wheels with P235/60R18 tires.
Inside: Four-zone automatic climate control with separate rear digital control panel, backup camera, Driver Easy Speak system, wireless charging, leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats with seatback pockets, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar and driver memory function, four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, second-row captains’ chairs with super long slide feature (that extends to the dashboard) and ottomans, stowable third row, and second- and third-row sunshades.
Powertrain & MSRP
FWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($51,075)
AWD 7-Passenger Hybrid CVT ($51,635)
Outside: Signature bi-LED projector headlights and LED strip daytime running lights with auto on/off feature, LED foglights, LED taillights, black side rocker panels, dark gray metallic grille, chrome roof rails, hands-free dual power sliding side doors, liftgate with jam protection, bird’s eye view camera features, and 20-inch wheels for front-wheel drive models.
Inside: Four-zone automatic climate control with separate rear digital control panel, backup camera, Driver Easy Speak system, 360-degree camera, wireless charging, leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats with seatback pockets, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar and driver memory functions, four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated leather-trimmed second-row-seat captain’s chairs with long-slide feature (to the dashboard), and a stowable third row.
The iconic Shinkansen Japanese Bullet Train was the inspiration for the 2021 Toyota Sienna and its body, especially at the front. There you’ll find a lower grille with high-tech LED fog lights in the corners. The shoulder-themed design, muscular wheels arches, and a sculpted body erase the boxy minivan look.
Underneath, however, this new Sienna shares the automaker’s TNGA-K platform, which also underpins its Highlander and RAV4 SUVs. That gives the Sienna a 1.2 inch longer wheelbase and allowed for a new multi-link rear suspension. According to Toyota, the TNGA-K platform makes the Sienna “library quiet,” thanks to additional sound insulation, body sealant, and other measures to reduce vibrations in the vehicle’s floor.
2021 Toyota Sienna: Engine & Powertrain
The big news, though, is how the 2021 Toyota Sienna is only available as a hybrid. The high efficiency 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine delivers 245 horsepower. The 1.9-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery is under the front seats, so you don’t have anything hindering cargo space at the back of the Sienna. Most importantly, as Toyota notes, the hybrid battery pack does not need to be recharged. Thus, there is no need to invest in a charger for your home. The Toyota Hybrid System II charges the battery automatically as you drive.
Toyota says the gas engine’s 41 percent greater thermal efficiency, one of the highest of any internal combustion automobile engines on the market (minus other Toyota hybrids), will interest gearheads who are looking at the Sienna for a family vehicle. The gas engine has Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing-intelligent system by Electric motor (VVT-iE) on the intake camshaft and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump and electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further improve efficiency.
Drivers can monitor the hybrid system via the seven-inch multi-information display. The display shows system output and regeneration status. It also targets optimal acceleration amounts for eco-driving.
Is The 2021 Toyota Sienna All-Wheel Drive?
While front-wheel drive is available, Toyota continues its long tradition of offering the Sienna with all-wheel drive. The “Electric On-Demand” system eliminates the heavy transfer case and driveshaft and uses a separate electric motor to power the rear wheels. Toyota’s hybrid all-wheel drive system can send up to 80 percent of the available power to the rear wheels to prevent front-wheel slip, enhance cornering, and reduce understeer.
The percentage of torque distribution varies with conditions, which is indicated on the multi-information display.
Can I Tow With The 2021 Toyota Sienna?
Yes, but only up to 3,500 lbs. when properly equipped.
What Is The Gas Mileage?
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the front-wheel drive Sienna comes in at 36 across the board (city, highway, combined). All-wheel drive models vary slightly at 35/36 city/highway and 35 combined.
What Are The Tech & Connectivity Features?
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is loaded with all kinds of tech and connectivity features. Here is a detailed list.
Toyota Audio (standard on LE grade): includes a nine-inch touchscreen, six speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, seven USB ports, hands-free phone and music streaming via Bluetooth, SiriusXM, Safety Connect with one-year trial, and Wi-Fi Connect with up to two GB within the three-month trial.
Toyota Audio Plus (standard for XLE, optional for LE): adds to the above: AM/FM/HD radio, eight speakers, Siri Eyes Free, Safety Connect with a three-year trial, and Wi-Fi Connect powered by AT&T (up to two GB within the six-month trial).
Toyota Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation (standard on XSE): adds navigation to the Toyota Audio Plus system.
Toyota Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL Premium Audio (standard on Limited and Platinum, optional for XLE and XSE): adds 12 speakers including subwoofer and 1,200-watt amplification, plus Clari-Fi digital restoration technology to Toyota Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation.
Also available is a Driver Easy Speak system that lets parents communicate with their kids, no matter how far away they are sitting.
What Are The Safety Features?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Sienna five stars overall but only four stars for side-impact and rollover. It was beaten by every other minivan except the Dodge Caravan. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of advanced safety features on the Sienna. The minivan is standard with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0), a comprehensive packages that includes:
Road Sign Assist.
Lane Tracing Assist.
Lane departure alert with steering assist.
Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.
A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
The optional heads-up display will show TSS 2.0 functions.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is also standard with 10 airbags throughout the interior. They are placed as follows:
Driver’s knee airbag.
Front-seat side airbags.
Passenger seat cushion airbag.
Rear outboard seat side airbags.
Driver and front passenger airbags.
Side curtain airbags for all three rows.
Drivers also have the option for a Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan that provides a 360-degree view so a driver can see around the immediate area. This is helpful when you are trying to maneuver through busy parking lots or live in a neighborhood with families and kids.
2021 Toyota Sienna Interior Configurations
Like they did with the exterior styling, Toyota says they wanted to get away from the bus-like feel associated with minivans. As such, the design team went to work on the interior, making sure to include helpful things like cupholders (up to 16 of them!), wireless charging, and plenty of extra storage. A power moonroof is available for the LE but standard on every other trim level.
The Sienna LE and some XLE models come in eight-seat configurations with a stowable middle seat. Some XLE models, as well as the XSE, Limited, and Platinum are seven-seaters, featuring the Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs (with the Limited and Platinum FWD models equipped with ottomans). As for Super Long Slide, that means the second-row captain’s chairs move a total of 25 inches to provide extra legroom for high school kids who are growing taller by the minute.
Keep in mind, however, the captain’s chairs are not removable nor do they stow which will limit what you can carry in terms of cargo.
2021 Toyota Sienna Warranty
Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against perforation from corrosion for 60 months with no mileage limitation.
Hybrid-related components that require repairs needed to correct defects in materials or workmanship are covered for eight years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first. The battery is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles, whichever comes first, and is transferable to a new owner.
If you have more questions, or to determine if you need additional coverage, see our free and helpful guide to Toyota’s factory warranty.
Nancy Dunham is a life-long journalist whose work appears in many national automotive and general interest magazines and accompanying websites. Her dad was an executive with Western Auto Supply Co. (sold to Sears), so the smell of tires still brings back a flood of childhood memories. Favorite professional assignment: driving on the Texas Motor Speedway. She lives in Austin, Texas with her cat Prudence.