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2020 Sienna: Trusty Old School Minivan

By James Raia, June 30th, 2020

Toyota's family hauler is worthy of its namesake, "Siena," the medieval city in Tuscany, Italy. Siena is known for its sturdy, Gothic brick buildings and historic districts. At 23 years old, the Toyota Sienna is ancient by minivan standards and is holding up well, despite declining sales and the dominance of light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The Toyota Sienna minivan is an old-school minivan with some upgrades for 2020. Known as a comfortable people hauler, the Sienna is quick for its size, comfortable, and versatile with several seat configuration options. The Sienna is also the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.

A few refinements advance this year's model, now in the ninth year of its current generation; few vehicles last six years per generation. Available in five main trims, the SE, XLE, and Limited editions are also offered with sub-trims. The reviewed SE trim is sportier than its siblings.

All Siennas are powered by a 296-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

While SUVs have flourished, minivans have been cast aside as stodgy and staid. While the Sienna enjoyed North American sales of 137,497 in 2015, it stumbled to 73,585 sales last year. And this major decline just isn't warranted for such a good vehicle. But this the way market demand responds to other segment options, such as crossovers and SUVs.

Three-seat configuration in SUVs isn't always efficient, nor is the third row often size-worthy for adults. The Sienna can be arranged for seven or eight passengers. It's worthy to have options, particularly if usable by all.

While not light, the second row of seats is removable and the third row recedes into the floor. The result is a vast cargo area. Toyota's seat design also includes a worthy "hidden" seat feature that tucks a small jump seat between the second row of captain's chairs.

Like other vans and SUVs, the Sienna features perched seating for the driver and front passenger. The overall vision is excellent. The surrounding interior isn't plush, rather it's dominated by plastic. The retro look is extended to dash functions, and is engaged with physical buttons and knobs. They're easily visible, big, and easy to use.

There was a time when minivans were defined in part by barren interiors with simplicity a worthy attribute, and former "boxes on wheels" may not recover from a stigma of being "old school." But it's also not an accurate stigma.

Standard active safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with steering assist. A 360-degree camera system, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are optional. Available entertainment features include a Wi-Fi hot spot and a rear-seat entertainment system.

The Toyota Sienna also includes the carmaker's signature Toyota Safety Sense system. It provides front collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and other modern driver-assist features. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa are also offered. Five USB ports are spread through the cabin. Ten cupholders are included with the seven-seat van, 12 with the eight-seater.

Fuel efficiency isn't the minivan segment's best trait. Front-wheel-drive Sienna models are rated at 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 mpg on the freeway. All-wheel-drive models have ratings of 18 mpg in city driving, 24 mpg on the freeway. The MSRP for the tested all-wheel-drive offering is $46,388.

The Honda Odyssey has a more modern interior and the Chrysler Pacifica is available as a plug-in hybrid. But the Sienna shouldn't be dismissed. It doesn't exactly offer a serene ride. But it's as comfortable as a minivan, meaning it warrants consideration as a long-haul family transporter.

Specifications

Base price $43,660 (as tested: $46,388)
Curb weight 4,605 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type 24-valve V-6
Epa mileage rating 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 20.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 296 at 6600 rpm
Overall length 200.6 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 263 at 4700 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 8-passenger AWD minivan
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