Minivans always seem to be a topic of discussion. We know many a SUV driver who wouldn’t be caught dead in one. And we know many minivan drivers who wouldn’t own anything else. Part of this is a hangover from the early days of the little van, being a very functional box, but really be devoid of any style.
Toyota’s Sienna has always been a fine product, and in the previous generation, the “Swagger Wagon” add campaign gave some needed cache to the vehicle. Introduced last year, an all-new Sienna takes a major step in style, performance, and technology – so does the Sienna still have the swagger? Let’s take a look.
All Aboard the Bullet Train
Toyota has some lofty design goals for the new Sienna. They say the front was designed by the Shinkansen Japanese Bullet Train. We can see that – with the huge lower grille, wide set thin LED headlights and super cool slime LED lower fogs, it does appear imposing from the dead front.
The profile looks like a mix of SUV meets Minivan, with a tall upright stance sliding rear doors and a swept forward rear pillar. Our tester was the high value XLE model, but if you really are going for the looks department, we think the sportier XSE model with 20-inch rims makes the bigger bolder statement.
The rear serves up a crisp appearance with sharp folded lines coming off the rear wheel arches, a taillight the goes full width and wraps around both sides, and a pushed-in rear panel that gives off some real attitude. Finishing off the look, our tester wore a rich deep blue the company calls Blueprint, and it shimmers with loads of depth in sunlight, a high-end expensive look. Swagger? Yep!
Inside is even bolder than the exterior. While most vans go for the big, spacious box design, the Sienna has what they call a “Bridge Console” the separates driver from passenger, creating a sporty cockpit like feel for the driver. The console itself holds a traditional shifter which we love, plenty of cupholders, a massive storage area and equally huge under console storage cubby that’s accessible from both sides.
The gauges are clear analog designs, and being a hybrid, they’ve done away with having a tachometer, which is probably just fine with Sienna drivers. Equally fine is a large 9-inch touchscreen display with all the modern goodies including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. Since this is true multi-person vehicle, there also 7 USB ports and available Wi-Fi hotspot. Everyone aboard will be happy.
Making sure those in back are even happier, our tester had the optional Rear Entertainment System, with a 1080p, 11.6-inch display with remote and two wireless headphones. Those in front have their own info-tainment with the great-sounding 12-speaker JBL audio system.
Making sure the Sienna is a great people hauler, you’ve got 3rd row seats that are great for kids and folds into a deep well when not in use creating a huge cargo hold. The 2nd row bench is a multi-tasker with a stowable center seat and slides forward easily for access to the third row.
They’re plenty comfortable, but when we found out that other trims offer Captain’s seats with swing-up ottomans and can slide 25 inches to help give you amazing stretch out room, we kind of wished we had that!
Driving the Sienna is another nice surprise. Under the hood of all Siennas is a hybrid powertrain including a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder and two electric motors for a combo of 243 horsepower. If you opt for all-wheel drive, you get an additional electric motor.
A hybrid is an interesting choice for a minivan, only the Chrysler Pacifica offers one, but if you need a big vehicle without the big fuel bills, it’s a great choice. Our tester carried and EPA city estimate of 36 mpg, which is pretty phenomenal for such a big beast.
You do pay a bit for this efficiency, the 4-cylinder is a bit rough when you lean into it, and the V6 competitors like the Honda Odyssey are quicker. Leaning into that hybrid is fun, though, since you have a Sport mode, and get all the low-end instantaneous oomph of an electric motor.
Doing that probably doesn’t help fuel economy, though. Of course, once the Sienna can switch over to EV mode, it’s whisper quiet.
That quietness is really apparent on the freeway, where the big van glides along in a hushed way with a super smooth ride that makes this a superb vehicle for long trips. And the rear entertainment system should keep the little ones happy for hours on end.
Around town, you are aware of the size or the vehicle, but with a nice upright seating position for good visibility, you get around pretty easily. A cool bonus – Sienna’s hybrid system enhances ride smoothness by controlling torque to suppress pitch and dive under acceleration and deceleration. Neat!
Safety is sure to be a big issue, and Toyota doesn’t miss a beat, with standard Safety Sense 2.0, featuring Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Full-range Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, High Beam Assist and Road Sign Assist.
Will this Big Box fit My Budget?
Probably, since there’s a wide range. You can get into a Sienna LE at $34,710 and at that price you still get dual sliding power doors, remote keyless entry and pushbutton start, seven USB ports, a 9-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa Compatible, plus Safety Sense 2.0 and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Pretty much a great family vehicle! At the opposite end of the spectrum is the very outdoorsy Woodland Edition, starting at $45,350.
Our XLE tester was the next level up from the LE, starting at $39,850, and added such niceties as power sunroof, hands-free sliding doors, Softex (faux leather) seats, 2nd row captain’s chairs, heated front seats, and more. Our tester added the Rear Seat Entertainment System ($1,415), 1500W inverter with two 120V AC outlets ($300), and the XLE Plus Package, which adds 12-speaker JBL Audio, Wireless Smartphone Charging, and more ($2,000). Add in $1,215 for destination, and we rang the bell at $44,780.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid would be a natural competitor. It’s a plug-in hybrid though, so you’ll get more EV only range, but you’ll have to be ok with charging it. Also, at $53,400 it’s considerably more expensive. While they are not a hybrid, we are big fans of the Kia Carnivale at $38,775and the Honda Odyssey at $40,935. Both great vehicles, but they are nowhere as fuel efficient, and fuel prices are high, and look to be going higher.
If you want or need a minivan, it’s hard to not love this one. Great design, a gorgeous interior and fuel economy that rivals economy cars, the 2022 Sienna XLE still deserves the title “Swagger Wagon”!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.