2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Hybrid AWD Review

A minivan can be stunning, really.


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: The best-looking Sienna ever, opulent and roomy interior, tremendous second-row sliding capability, easy to drive, excellent efficiency.
Negatives: Feels underpowered, throttle response is slow, no longer a gas-only option, infotainment system could've been better.
Bottom Line: The new Sienna is a significant improvement over the last-gen version. Not only does it look like it belongs in the 21st century, it also drives especially well in sporty XSE trim that's not just about the looks. Buyers will love the look, the interior space, the Captain's Chairs, and the gas mileage.
The new Sienna has been redone from the ground up. The two biggest changes are the new and far better TNGA platform that undergirds the minivan, and the Sienna is now hybrid only. Every 2021 Sienna will have a 2.5-liter gasoline engine paired with two electric motors to produce a total of 245 horsepower. It drops some power from the previous generation but gets a 12 mpg bump in efficiency. It can also still tow an impressive 3,500 pounds. Our XSE trimmed minivan gets a sport-tuned suspension and thicker stabilizer bars, along with revised steering tuning. We drove the brand-new Sienna XSE to see how transformational the new design really is. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.8

 

Gone is vague and floaty Sienna of old. The new TNGA platform and tweaks to the sportier XSE trim change the feel of the Sienna significantly. Rigidity is much better, as is the suspension and steering. It's just too bad the powertrain lacks the gusto to put it all together.

Ride Quality: The ride is compliant and composed in virtually all situations, but it doesn't feel spongy and disconnected like the last-gen Sienna.

Acceleration: Although the Sienna is new, don't expect the acceleration to match its slick looks. 0-to-60 takes almost 8 seconds. The CVT doesn't do it any favors since the Sienna is meant to be more efficient than entertaining. It's slower than the Chrylser Pacifica with its V6, as well as the Honda Odyssey.

Braking: Even though the Sienna has regen brakes, they actually feel decent and modulate well.

Steering: The XSE's steering has been tweaked to be more responsive, and it works well with the TNGA platform. The Sienna feels more precise and responsive, as a result.

Handling: Our XSE has better suspension than the non-sport trims, and the thicker stabilizer bars help keep body roll in check. It's obvious that the TNGA platform has also made a world of difference in the Sienna's behavior in the turns.

Technology

7.3

 

The changes in Toyota's design language has been dramatic, but their in-car technology didn't make the commensurate leap. Every redesigned Toyota suffers from a still-dated (but new) infotainment system.

Infotainment System: The 9" screen is a decent size, but the graphics and slow response don't do it any favors. It still looks like it belongs in a 2010 vehicle. That's too bad.

Controls: We like the chunky gearshift knob, and the steering wheel mounted controls are good. But the infotainment buttons are tiny, as are the climate control buttons. We also wish Toyota kept the climate control temp knobs, instead of relegating their function to small buttons.

Styling

9.1

 

It's good to see automakers put time and effort into designing a relatively ignored segment. Granted, the old Sienna had to play catch up with the Odyssey and the Pacifica, which were redesigned a few years ago. The new Sienna is actually quite bold, handsome, and even rakish in some quadrants. Likewise, the interior has been smartly dressed up, opened up, and generally echeloned up.

Front: The front of the Sienna was inspired by Japan's superfast Shinkansen bullet train. The sloped nose, shapely headlights, and huge lower fascia grille look good together and draw the eye of the viewer. Gone is the proboscis of the old minivan.

Rear: The dramatic taillights that extend down into the rear quarter panel actually look a lot like the Supra sports car's. There's also a bit of taffy pull going on toward the inner edge of the taillights, capped off by a spoiler built into the tailgate. It's a good-looking back end.

Profile: The muscular rear fenders look a lot like both the Supra and the new Highlander. They give the Sienna a bold stance that breaks free from the slab-sided minivan look we're so used to.

Cabin: Good materials, a wide and thin dash, and a gorgeous center console provide an open and airy cabin that looks great. Upgrade to Limited or Platinum, and the Sienna gets even better materials.

Comfort

9

 

The Sienna shines where it needs to by providing a truly comfortable cabin that provides oodles of space for all. The XSE comes in 7-passenger configuration (aka, 2nd row Captain's Chairs) only, and that adds to its open-air feel.

Front Seats: The seatbacks are wide and accommodating, and we found the cushioning to be just right (unlike the last-gen Sienna's, which were too mushy). SofTex synthetic leather feel decent, but the weird lizard-like seat texture wasn't to our liking.

Rear Seats: The Captain's Chairs were comfortable and at the right height. The super slide provides even more legroom and also works to accommodate taller third row passengers. Those seatbacks are a little flat, not atypical for three-row vehicles.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The harshness of the four-cylinder comes through when you mash the gas, but otherwise the Sienna is quiet and well built.

Visibility: Visibility out the front half of the Sienna (and out the rear window) are very good. But the tiny side rear windows are tough to see out of.

Climate: The four-zone climate system works well, and we had no trouble getting the heating going during chilly weather.

Safety

9.5

 

Toyota has been scoring remarkably well with most of their new vehicles, and the Sienna is no exception. It achieves the highest of scores, and like its stablemates, champions safety with an impressive set of standard safety tech. This is where minivans have to excel, and the Sienna surely does.

IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick+ with "good" scores all the way through and "superior" in vehicle-to-vehicle accident avoidance and mitigation and "advanced" in vehicle-to-pedestrian.

NHTSA Rating: The Sienna attained five stars here. No surprise.

Standard Tech: Our XSE tester came with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and Lane Tracing Assist

Optional Tech: No Monroney sticker provided.

Storage/Cargo

9.2

 

While the Sienna isn't the biggest hauler in the minivan segment, it does provide more than enough room for a family trip or cargo hauls. Keep in mind, the second row seats can't be removed, which compromises the interior cargo capacity.

Storage Space: There's a ton of cabin storage options, which makes the Sienna excellent for all occupants to bring their gear and keep it in reach. We love the huge under console storage in the front row that can handle a large purse. The armrest is large enough to hold tablets. Door pockets are great for water bottles, and there's even a convenient dash tray for smaller items.

Cargo Room: There's 33.5 cubes behind the third row seats (thanks to the deep opening into which the seats fold), and there's 101 cubes with the third row folded.

Fuel Economy

9

 

The hybrid powertrain is a recipe for efficiency. This would be our choice of family travel for long road trips because of that fact. You'd be hard pressed to get lousy mileage unless you packed it to the gills with people and gear and then hammered the throttle for city driving. The 35 combined mpg is easily attainable.

Observed: 33.9 mpg.

Distance Driven: 84 miles.

Audio

8.5

 

Our optioned out XSE came with the $1,300 XSE Plus Package and the 12-speaker JBL premium audio system with its subwoofer and amplifier. It's a very good system that fills the large cabin with good bass, good clarity, and no distortion.



Final Thoughts

The Sienna is a contender again, and it's about time. We're glad Toyota took some design risks to make the Sienna actually a head-turner of a minivan. We think it looks better than both the Pacifica and the Odyssey because it breaks from tradition, even though those two models still look good. The XSE's driving dynamics are very good, despite the dearth of power. You do sacrifice performance for impressive levels of efficiency, but there are virtually no sacrifices made on the great interior. We do hope their infotainment gets refreshed in a couple of years. Families will love the new Sienna, and parents will no longer be embarrassed to be seen in one.
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