Full 2003 Toyota Sienna Review
What's New for 2003
The Sienna carries into 2003 virtually unchanged. The right-hand power-sliding door is now available on CE models, as are captain's chairs. A complete redesign is due for 2004.
Minivans aren't prestigious. They aren't exciting. But when it comes to maximum versatility and ease of use, you can't beat the ultimate box on wheels. The Toyota Sienna (looking more like a jelly bean, actually) is six model years old and doesn't offer as much utility and functionality as newer competitors, such as the Honda Odyssey or the Kia Sedona. But it's still one of the top choices in the minivan class. With the Sienna, Toyota has placed an emphasis on safety, quality and performance. Furthermore, this minivan has an excellent reputation for reliability, strong predicted resale value and a smooth powertrain.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
There are three trim levels available: the base CE, the midlevel LE and the top-level XLE. All come standard with five doors and seven-passenger seating. The CE is pretty much a budget-priced stripper meant to attract consumers to the dealer lot. Its level of content can be brought up by ordering options, but an easier choice is to go with the popular LE. With this version, you'll get features like power-operated rear-quarter windows, power windows and locks, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio buttons and a full-size spare. For the XLE, Toyota adds on (in addition to the LE's equipment) multiadjustable power front seats, second-row captain's chairs, automatic climate control, a premium sound system, keyless entry and a roof rack.
Major options include a passenger-side power sliding door (the XLE can be had with dual power sliding doors), a towing package with a 3,500-pound capacity, dual air conditioning, heated front seats and side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and upgraded audio systems. Additionally, XLE buyers can get leather seating, a power moonroof and a CD changer. An entertainment system is available, but it comes only with a video cassette player, not DVD. When shopping, note that most of the Sienna's features are available in packages.
Powertrains and Performance
Under the hood is a smooth, powerful and refined 3.0-liter V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. This same powertrain setup can also be found in the Toyota Camry. In the Sienna, the engine produces 210 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque.
The Sienna's rigid and lightweight unitized body has performed exceptionally well in government crash tests. Standard safety features include ABS, front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, a low tire-pressure warning system and daytime running lights. Every Sienna can also be ordered with optional side airbags and a stability control system that helps prevent dangerous skids and spins.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sienna was designed to offer optimum interior roominess in a compact, easy-to-maneuver package. The interior has a definite Camry feel to it, and is constructed and trimmed in high-quality materials. Removable modular seating allows for custom configurations to accommodate a variety of cargo requirements. A second-row bench seat or captain's chairs and third-row seats can be folded or removed to accommodate bulkier cargo. The third-row seat also has a 50/50-split-folding and tumble feature for additional cargo space, but it can't match many competitors for overall user-friendliness.
The Sienna driving experience is similar to the Camry in that it's pleasantly nonconfrontational. Steering is sure, if not quite nimble. The suspension does a good job of soaking up road imperfections, and wind noise is kept to a minimum. Braking is exceptionally competent. Acceleration from the V6 is more than acceptable for almost all situations, and the cabin is quiet at highway speeds. Overall, Toyota does not make the biggest or most useful minivan, but it does make a reliable, safe, solidly performing and refined alternative to a number of family haulers on the market.