Buyers looking for a smart choice in the minivan segment will undoubtedly find themselves considering the Toyota Sienna. Since its introduction in 1998, the Sienna has won over families with its versatility, features, safety record and reputation for reliability. There have been three Sienna generations. The newest one is the most capable and stylish yet, but just about any year of Sienna comes recommended.
Current Toyota Sienna
Space and versatility are hallmarks of a good minivan, and the Toyota Sienna certainly has those attributes going for it. Among the few competitors in this arena, however, the Sienna is a standout for the many choices and features presented to the prospective minivan owner. Buyers can choose between two engines, opt for an all-wheel-drive version and there's even a sporty model available. Add these to the Sienna's long list of features and it's easy to see why the big Toyota beat out all others in a recent comparison test.
Unlike previous model years, only one engine is offered with the current Toyota Sienna: a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. This powerful V6 gets the Sienna moving with authority, while managing to achieve respectable fuel economy numbers. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission offered, but those who drive in inclement weather have an all-wheel-drive option at their disposal.
More choices, in the form of five trim levels, allow buyers to select the right Sienna for their needs. Feature highlights for the base Sienna include tri-zone air-conditioning and full power accessories. The LE adds items like a rearview camera, power-sliding side doors, automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system. The SE tacks on sporty exterior treatments, firmer suspension tuning, a power liftgate and leatherette/cloth upholstery. The XLE goes without the sporty looks and ride, but adds more appeal with a sunroof, leather upholstery, a blind-spot monitoring system and, on AWD models, second-row lounge seats with pop-up footrests. The Limited features dual sunroofs, a power-folding third-row seat and premium audio. Adaptive cruise control, a rear-seat entertainment system and a navigation system highlight the options list.
In reviews, we've been impressed with the Sienna's versatile interior, although the dashboard materials and design are less impressive than what you'll find in the Honda Odyssey or Nissan Quest. Seven-passenger Siennas allow the second-row captain's chairs to be pushed together to create a bench seat. The eight-passenger version uses a second-row bench, while models fitted with the lounge seats offer La-Z-Boy comfort to those in the second row, provided their legs aren't particularly long. On the road, the V6's smooth and powerful acceleration impresses, the cabin is quiet at speed and the ride is comfy. Overall, the Sienna belongs on any minivan shopper's short list.
Used Toyota Sienna Models
The current Toyota Sienna represents the model's third generation that debuted for the 2011 model year. For the first two years of this production run, a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter inline-4 was offered as a base engine. We still suggest going with the V6, as the four cylinder's power was merely adequate and lacked a significant fuel economy advantage over the larger engine.
The second-generation Sienna was produced from 2004-'10. We would recommend looking at 2005-and-newer models (built after February 2005), as Toyota strengthened the van's side structure and revised the side airbags to improve performance in side-impact crashes. Side airbag protection was made standard on all Siennas for the 2006 model year; previously, these bags were standard only on the XLE Limited and optional on other trims.
From 2004-'06, the Sienna had a 3.3-liter V6 good for a stated 230 hp. Due to revisions in SAE testing procedures, the Sienna's stated hp rating dropped from 230 to 215 in 2006; acceleration and performance were unaffected, however. From 2007-'10, the Sienna featured Toyota's excellent 3.5-liter V6 rated at 266 hp.
Trim levels for the second-generation Sienna consisted of the affordable CE, the midrange LE, the upscale XLE and the Lexus-like XLE Limited. Most used-minivan shoppers will be happy with the CE or LE, and these are the trims to look at if you want the eight-passenger option, which places a three-person bench seat in the second row in lieu of twin captain's chairs. The center section of the bench seat slides forward to give parents easier access to a baby in a car seat.
In reviews, we lauded this Sienna as one of the very best minivans on the market. In addition to receiving above-average crash test scores, the Sienna was one of the few minivans to offer a choice of seven- or eight-passenger seating capacity. It also offered the unusual option of all-wheel drive, and available upscale amenities included adaptive cruise control and power-folding third-row seats. On the road, we found the second-generation Sienna swift and refined, especially with the 3.5-liter V6. For consumers in search of a pre-owned minivan with both class and convenience, this Toyota should deliver.
Sold from 1998-2003, the first-generation Toyota Sienna was considerably smaller than the newer models. It still seated up to seven passengers, but with a 5-inch-shorter wheelbase and a 3-inch-narrower body, its interior was cramped for larger families. Unlike its chief competitor, Honda's Odyssey, the Sienna didn't offer fold-flat seating in the third row, though its removable seats were at least lightweight and easy to maneuver.
Advantages to the first-generation Sienna include excellent crash test scores, a quiet ride, smooth performance from the 210-hp 3.0-liter V6 and above-average reliability. Disadvantages include iffy interior ergonomics and overly soft handling.
If you're shopping for a first-generation Toyota Sienna minivan, note that the right-side power-sliding door didn't arrive until the 1999 model year, while front-seat side airbags and stability control joined the options list for 2001. When considering a used first-generation Sienna, you should take a careful look at its maintenance records, as a small percentage of Siennas from this era were susceptible to engine problems when not treated to regular oil changes.
Read the most recent 2013 Toyota Sienna review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Sienna page.