Full 2012 Toyota Sienna Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Toyota Sienna's XLE trim gains additional standard features, notably a power passenger seat and automatic headlights.
With its cavernous interior and bevy of available comfort and convenience features, the modern minivan is second to none as a family hauler. The Toyota Sienna has long been one of the segment's most capable picks, and last year, it got a top-to-bottom redesign that makes it even more compelling.
Relative to the previous generation, the current 2012 Toyota Sienna presents buyers with a wider range of choices. It can be had with a four-cylinder engine for those who want higher fuel economy, and there's the SE trim level with a sport-tuned suspension for more responsive handling. Other highlights include a split-screen video monitor for the rear-seat entertainment system and available recliner-style seating for the second row.
The Sienna also has a smooth ride and a quiet cabin in its favor, and the available V6 brings spirited acceleration. All-wheel drive is offered, a plus for those who frequently slog through rain and snow; the Sienna is the only minivan to offer this feature. Another bonus is the Sienna's ability to seat up to eight passengers.
Of course, the minivan segment boasts some impressive choices. Our other top choice is the talented Honda Odyssey, whose wide, uniquely configurable second-row seat adds an extra measure of versatility. You might also want to look at the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Nissan Quest. Still, the 2012 Toyota Sienna is an ideal match for many on the strengths of its overall competence and unique mix of features, engines and trim levels.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan comes in five trim levels: base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. The LE and XLE come in seven- and eight-passenger configurations; the base and Limited are seven-passenger only and the SE is eight-passenger only. All trims come with front-wheel drive while the LE, XLE and Limited can also be had with all-wheel drive.
The base Sienna includes 17-inch alloy wheels, sliding rear doors with power-down windows, triple-zone air-conditioning, full power accessories, a telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The four-cylinder LE adds privacy glass, heated side mirrors, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, floor and overhead consoles and an eight-way (manual) driver seat. The LE V6 adds a roof rack, power-sliding side doors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power lumbar supports (front seats), second- and third-row sunshades, a 3.5-inch display (includes a back-up monitor), Bluetooth (phone and streaming audio) and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface.
The sport-themed SE is equipped similarly to the LE V6 but adds more aggressive styling via 19-inch alloy wheels, a unique front fascia (with foglights, mesh inserts and a larger air intake), lower body skirting and tinted head- and taillights. The SE also has firmer suspension tuning, revised power steering and a power liftgate. Inside the SE are leatherette/cloth upholstery, unique instruments, triple-zone automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Sienna XLE reverts back to the LE but features a unique metallic-gray grille insert, automatic headlights, a sunroof, a tow prep package, leather upholstery, wood-grain interior trim, power driver and passenger seats, heated front seats and auto-up/down power windows. The AWD version of the XLE also comes with second-row lounge seats that feature pop-up footrests.
The plush Limited features 18-inch alloy wheels, a satin chrome grille, power-folding side mirrors (with auto-dimming, signal repeaters and puddle lamps), dual sunroofs, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, two-tone leather seating, driver memory settings, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, an upgraded 10-speaker JBL surround-sound audio system, second-row lounge seats and a power-folding/split third-row seat.
Options on the Toyota Sienna are grouped into packages that vary based on trim level and buying region. Notable highlights include xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a large screen that can be split to display two different sources and a navigation system with a back-up camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Base and LE models come with a 2.7-liter inline-4 that makes 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Available on those two trims and standard on all others is a 3.5-liter V6 with 266 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sienna LE, XLE and Limited V6 models can also be had with all-wheel drive.
In Edmunds testing, we timed the V6 (in front-drive Limited trim) from zero to 60 mph in a swift 7.9 seconds. The EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the four-cylinder Sienna. Notably, the V6 gets pretty much the same numbers with 18/25/21 ratings. Opting for all-wheel drive drops the Sienna to 17/23/19.
Antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver-side knee airbag and active front head restraints are standard on all 2012 Toyota Sienna models. A pre-collision warning system and hill start assist are optional on the Limited. At our test track, a Sienna Limited stopped from 60 mph in 127 feet -- about average for the minivan segment.
In government crash testing, the Sienna received an overall score of four stars (out of five). It got three stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. In tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Sienna earned a top score of "Good" for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Lower trim levels of the Sienna are attractively decked out with high-quality fabric upholstery, while higher-end models get leather along with somewhat unconvincing faux-wood cabin accents. Some of the plastics feel a bit downmarket, though, while others -- such as the intentionally rough-textured plastic on the dash -- are just plain odd. Seating is plush, there's abundant space for storage and the Sienna's controls are user-friendly. The available rear seat entertainment system has a split-screen monitor that allows two different media (e.g., a movie on one side and a video game on the other) to play simultaneously.
With a seven-passenger Sienna, you get second-row captain's chairs that tip up to allow easier access to the third row; these chairs also have a long-slide feature to maximize legroom for taller passengers. However, the seats do require a fair amount of effort to slide, and removing them is a job best left to two people, as they are rather heavy and awkward. The eight-passenger version comes with a 40/20/40-split second-row bench whose center section slides close to the front seats for easier access to the little one seated there.
Choose a model fitted with the lounge seats and second-row passengers get to recline in La-Z-Boy-style comfort, provided those seats are slid back far enough (and the front seats are up far enough) to allow the footrests to come up all the way. With the second-row seats out and the third row stowed, the Sienna provides a massive 150 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity.
We've long favored the Sienna's V6, which has the juice to deliver lively acceleration. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder is smooth and quiet, with enough punch to deal with traffic and freeway cruising with two people aboard; however, its thrust tapers off when it's faced with steeper inclines, quick merging or a full load of passengers. The smart six-speed automatic does a great job at keeping the four-cylinder peppy, but the downside of this powertrain is that the fuel economy isn't any better than the V6's.
The 2012 Toyota Sienna's ride quality is plush, and handling is competent in all versions. The SE, due to its recalibrated suspension, provides more agile handling with a somewhat firmer (though still comfortable) ride quality. The steering is typical Toyota, meaning precise if somewhat numb, though the SE offers a meatier feel in the wheel.