2021 Toyota Sienna Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Mar 12, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Toyota deals!

As with giant panda births, new minivan designs don't come along all that often. The 2021 Toyota Sienna, however, is all-new from the road to the roof, sporting a more expressive design and wheels sized up to 20 inches. Toyota says designers drew inspiration from, of all things, a Japanese bullet train.

While the 2021 Sienna isn't as fast as a bullet train, it's easily more comfortable. It can carry seven or eight passengers in supportive seats and a good haul of their cargo in an easy-to-drive vehicle not much larger than a Toyota Highlander.

Significantly, it's also one of only two current minivans that offer a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

The big news for 2021, though, is its standard gas-electric hybrid powertrain. It's a foreshadowing of things to come as automakers increasingly electrify their vehicles to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. It's a conventional hybrid, though, and not a plug-in hybrid as with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. No charging required. 

What Owners Say About the Toyota Sienna - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Silver Front View

Photo: Ron Sessions

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 59% of previous-generation Toyota Sienna owners were male (vs. 60% for the segment), and the median age of a Sienna owner was 53 years (vs. 54).

Owners say their favorite things about the previous-generation Sienna were (in descending order) the:

  • Driving feel
  • Exterior styling
  • Feeling of safety
  • Powertrain
  • Interior design

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the previous-generation Sienna were (in descending order) the:

  • Driving comfort and getting in and out (tied)
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the previous-generation Sienna ranked number three out of four minivans.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Toyota Sienna - Find the best Toyota deals!

In the following sections, our independent expert gives an analysis of a 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE equipped with the following options:

  • XSE Plus Package
  • Rear-seat entertainment system
  • Wireless headphones
  • 1500-watt inverter (120-volt power plug)
  • Rear bumper protection
  • Tri-fold cargo liner
  • Carpeted floor mats

The price of the test vehicle came to $46,452, including the $1,175 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Toyota Sienna Second Row Seat

Photo: Ron Sessions

Although it doesn't quite offer as much cargo space as its major competitors, the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey, the all-new 2021 Toyota Sienna reigns supreme in passenger comfort. Thanks to optimal step-in and seat bottom cushion heights, entering and exiting the front bucket seats is a breeze. The Sienna's super-wide power-operated sliding side doors provide unfettered access to the second-row seats and a reasonable opportunity to reach the third-row chairs without drama, even in tight parking spaces.

The new Sienna can seat up to eight adults in relative comfort; something few SUVs can accomplish. On all base LE and some XLE trims with 8-passenger seating, the middle section of the 3-passenger second-row bench can be unlatched and removed to aid through-the-van access. The second-row bench seat slides fore and aft to accommodate differing passenger legroom requirements and ease access to the 3-passenger, 60/40-split third-row bench seat. 

All other Sienna models seat seven with two up front, two in the middle row, and three in the third row. With this configuration, the second-row seats are comfy, nicely supportive captain's chairs with folding armrests and seatbacks that can recline far enough to take a nice snooze. Or, your passengers might thoughtfully inspect the sky through the panoramic power sliding sunroof that's standard in all but the base LE trim. 

The captain's chairs ride on super-long seat tracks with 25 inches (that's right, more than two feet) of fore and aft travel, and in the top Limited and Platinum trims, Toyota equips them with optional leg rests.

Note that these second-row captain's chairs have built-in 3-point seatbelts and side-impact airbags, so they are not removable as in the previous-generation Sienna. And they can't fold and stow into the floor because the Sienna's hybrid battery resides there.

That said, there is a lot of storage in the new Sienna. Up front, the center console offers a total of four cup holders (although none for jumbo-size drinks), small cubbies for things like keyfobs, coins, and USB memory sticks, a knee-high shelf for small items running the width of the instrument panel, a large open tray under the console for a purse or small camera case, open bins in the doors, plus the usual covered console bin and glovebox.

There's also a deep well in the back of the 60/40-split folding third-row seat that can handle as many as six airport roller bags or six large grocery bags standing up. The nice thing about the rear storage well is if any items fall out of the bags, the enclosure contains them.

2021 Toyota Sienna Infotainment System Review

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

Ten years is an eternity in the car business, which is the last time the Sienna got a major makeover. So the 2021 Sienna says goodbye to the dated-looking, in-dash 7-inch infotainment screen and available CD player of the previous model in favor of a modern-looking, landscape-format, flat-panel touchscreen set high atop the dashboard similar to those in the new Camry, Highlander, and Venza. 

Elements of the system include:

  • 9-inch high-definition touchscreen display
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Amazon Alexa compatibility
  • Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming
  • 7 USB ports (one data/media, 6 charging)
  • One 12-volt DC power plug
  • Available wireless charging for Qi-enabled phones
  • SiriusXM satellite radio (free 3-month trial)
  • Wi-Fi hotspot (free 3- or 6-month trial) 

The Sienna's touchscreen display is easy to use, with good contrast, bright colors, and decent-sized tiles. There are simple analog rotary knobs for volume and tuning and hard shortcut buttons flanking the screen that eliminates or minimizes the amount of menu scrolling necessary to achieve the desired result.

Unlike some competitors, the Sienna doesn't offer wireless smartphone projection. Wireless charging for Qi-enabled phones is available, and Toyota locates the charging pad on a convenient shelf that includes room for other odds and ends running along the lower edge of the instrument panel at the console level. 

Standard connected service plans include ten years of Service Connect and a 1-year trial of Safety Connect, which adds features such as automatic crash notification and emergency assistance. Move up to the Sienna XLE, and Toyota includes a 1-year trial of Remote Connect.

Starting with XSE trim, the Sienna gets a 3-year trial of dynamic navigation that includes an enhanced voice recognition system. It also adds a 1-year trial of Destination Assist concierge services. Our 2021 Sienna XSE test vehicle, equipped with the top Premium Audio system, responded to voice commands promptly and successfully every time.

A JBL premium stereo with 12 speakers and 1,200 watts of van-filling sound is also available. It also features Clari-Fi digital restoration software for enhanced fidelity and voice clarity.

Available as an option on all but the base Sienna LE, a second-row entertainment system features a single, 11.6-inch high-definition screen that flips down from the headliner. It comes with HDMI inputs, a remote control, and a pair of wireless headphones.

Driver Easy Speak is available for most versions of the Sienna. It is akin to a public address system that allows the driver to speak directly to naughty aft-section passengers via the van's audio speakers. Drivers access it using the infotainment touchscreen.

What It's Like to Drive the 2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Silver Side View

Photo: Ron Sessions

In moving to an all-hybrid powertrain for 2021, the new Sienna joins the industry-wide trend to greater electrification. It also addresses a longstanding complaint among minivan owners that despite the vehicle's efficient use of space for moving passengers and cargo, fuel economy is no better than that of the average midsize crossover SUV. 

A typical V6-powered minivan will get 20-22 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The 2021 Sienna boasts an EPA combined fuel economy estimate that makes the new minivan 65-75% more fuel-efficient, thanks to ratings of 35 mpg or 36 mpg, depending on the version you choose.

An Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine pairs with two (front-drive models) or three (AWD models) electric motors to propel the Sienna. Total system output is 245 horsepower, down as much as 20% from its V6 competitors but still good enough for claimed acceleration to 60 mph in just under eight seconds. While that's about a second slower to the 60-mph mark than last year's V6-powered Sienna and nearly 1.5 seconds less spritely than the current Odyssey's typical sprint to 60 mph, the new Sienna is plenty strong enough to merge onto 70-mph interstates and overtake slower vehicles on 2-lane highways without drama.

In more relaxed driving, the Sienna Hybrid has a turbine-smooth drive-off feel. It's also quiet when operating at lower speeds in electric mode, with the gasoline engine firing up only when needed, such as:

  • To provide cabin heat on a cold morning
  • To add extra oomph for brisk acceleration
  • To keep the 1.9-kWh nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery suitably charged to power the electric motors

At higher speeds, the gasoline engine operates near continuously.

The 2021 Sienna moves to the same vehicle platform that underpins the Toyota Highlander. This vehicle architecture is stiffer, lighter, and more crashworthy than the previous one.

In the process, the new Sienna swaps the old-fashioned twist-beam rear axle of the previous model for a modern multi-link rear suspension that helps deliver a more balanced ride and sharper handling, especially over rough pavement. The 2021 Sienna also brings quicker-ratio, more responsive steering, making it comparable to the Honda Odyssey.

As with other hybrids, the new Sienna has a brake system that blends mechanical disc brakes and a regenerative feature to recharge the hybrid battery. In the Sienna, the system works about as well as others but can get a bit grabby at low speeds, such as when parking or moving the van around in the garage or driveway. 

Conversely, when driving on the highway, the initial regen braking doesn't always apply enough initial slowing, such as when another car darts in front of you. Because of this, you must quickly press the pedal noticeably harder to get to the mechanical brakes in a hurry, which does the job. With familiarity, the driver can automatically compensate for these minor quirks, and the two-step braking response becomes less bothersome.

The test vehicle for this review was a Sienna XSE, a new trim this year with sporty exterior styling, a stiffer suspension, and meaty-looking 20-inch wheels. It replaces last year's similar Sienna SE. The XSE's ride is pleasantly firm and in character with its sporty looks. Despite the 50-series tires, impact harshness over ruts and bumps was not an issue.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Review

2021 Toyota Sienna ADAS Settings

Photo: Ron Sessions

In addition to many safety measures that include ten airbags, Toyota equips the 2021 Sienna with an extensive roster of standard advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Toyota includes most of them in a package it calls Toyota Safety Sense 2.0

Standard features on all Sienna models include:

  • Forward-collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Lane-centering assistance
  • Automatic high-beam assistance
  • Speed sign recognition
  • Backup camera with trajectory guidelines 
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Rear seat reminder

All but the base LE trim add standard:

  • Front and rear parking distance warning (beeps faster the closer you get to obstacles)
  • Forward and reverse parking collision avoidance assistance (automatically brakes to avoid a collision when pulling into a parking space)

The range-topping Platinum adds standard:

  • Bird's Eye View monitor (instead of just a basic backup camera, this gives an overhead 360-degree view of the Sienna and its immediate surroundings)
  • 10-inch head-up display (current speed, speed sign, navigation, hybrid system status, and other driver-customizable information projected onto the lower portion of the windshield ahead of the driver) 

The driver can keep tabs on the various ADAS systems' status by scrolling through the selections in the small driver multi-information display between the Sienna's gauges.

With adaptive cruise control switched on, the system does an excellent job of slowing and stopping behind a vehicle stopped in traffic without drama, then easily resumes the previously set speed with a tap on the accelerator or the cruise-control resume button.

In use, the lane-departure warning system haptically vibrates the steering wheel to notify the driver if the Sienna wanders outside its lane.

Lane centering is a mixed bag. It works well enough on straight highways with clearly painted lane markings, keeping the Sienna centered in its lane with automatic steering adjustments. But it easily loses the scent if the road curves more than just a little, over undulating terrain, or if the lane markings are faded or broken up. More frustrating is the system's occasional confusion when it encounters longitudinal tar strips or other previous road repairs that fool the front camera and the system into thinking these are lane markings. 

As always, modern ADAS technology can be a lifesaver and a backup during a moment of inattention. But there is no substitute for an alert driver with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. That last tweet can wait until you're parked.

2021 Toyota Sienna FAQ - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Maximum Cargo Space

Photo: Ron Sessions

How much cargo space does the 2021 Toyota Sienna have?

As with all minivans, the 2021 Sienna has an abundance of cargo space for its size compared to crossover SUVs. Behind the 60/40-split third-row seat, there's a deep well and an ample 33.5 cubic feet of space. And with the third-row seat flipped and folded into that well (now an easy one-step operation), there's an expansive flat cargo floor behind the second-row seats and 75.2 cubic feet of space.

As did the previous-generation (2011-2020) Sienna, the new model's second-row seats ride on long sliders and do not fold into the floor. And unlike last year's Sienna, the second-row seats of the 2021 version cannot be removed (without tools and significant disassembly, which is not recommended).

However, the new Sienna's second-row seats can slide fully forward against the back of the front bucket seats with the lower cushions tipped up and the back cushions tilted forward. This action nets 101 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. 

While that pales compared to the maximum cargo space available in other minivans, it's more than enough room for most owners' needs. Sienna owners looking to help move their neighbor's overstuffed sofa might instead want to borrow a pickup truck for that task.

Does the 2021 Toyota Sienna get good mileage?

Glad you asked. The 2021 Sienna is available solely with a gas-electric powertrain that gets phenomenal fuel economy for a minivan. In combined driving, the new Sienna's EPA estimates are 36 mpg with front-wheel drive and 35 mpg with all-wheel-drive. That nearly doubles the fuel efficiency of the new Sienna compared to last year's V6-powered version.

During a week of testing a front-drive 2021 Sienna XSE, I drove 249 miles, with 70% of that on interstates and secondary highways and 30% on other roads. The onboard average fuel economy display indicated 36.9 mpg. With the Sienna's 18-gallon fuel tank, that equates to an impressive 664-mile driving range.

Is the 2021 Toyota Sienna safe?

As this review was published, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had not yet rated the 2021 Toyota Sienna. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did test the 2021 Sienna and gave it a Top Safety Pick+ rating, the highest one possible.

How much is the 2021 Toyota Sienna?

Prices for front-wheel-drive versions of the 2021 Toyota Sienna are:

  • $34,460 for the base LE
  • $39,750 for the better-equipped XLE
  • $42,000 for the sporty XSE
  • $46,900 for the well-equipped Limited
  • $49,900 for the top-of-the-line Platinum 

The destination charge for all trims is $1,175. All-wheel drive is optional on all versions of the Sienna, for an additional cost of between $560 and $2,000, depending on trim level.

What are the 2021 Toyota Sienna competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Sedona was the highest-ranked model in the minivan segment. The Honda Odyssey was the highest-ranked model in the segment.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Honda Odyssey was the highest-ranked model in the minivan segment for overall appeal. The Chrysler Pacifica was the top-ranked model.

The only other major competitor to the 2021 Sienna is the Chrysler Voyager, which is essentially the same as the Chrysler Pacifica but with an older design and less equipment.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Silver Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Minivans are ideal for families that routinely carry more than three children. The point is, the new Toyota Sienna is one of only a few 3-row vehicles that can offer substantial cargo space (33.5 cubic feet of it in the Sienna's case) with passengers seated in all three rows. To get that kind of space in an SUV, a buyer would have to turn to a barely garageable, more fuel-thirsty, and much more expensive Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition Max, or GMC Yukon XL.

For 2021, Toyota draws upon its decades-long experience and sales successes with hybrid vehicles to bring significant advances in fuel economy to the minivan segment. If efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are important to you, the only other minivan that can compete on this front is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Toyota also doubles down on its unique long-travel second-row seating to provide maximum comfort for passengers and brings to market the brand's latest in connectivity and driver-assistive and safety technologies. Add a robust underlying vehicle platform and architecture, and the new Sienna is also an exceptionally safe way to transport your family.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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