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.
Though it's been on sale for the better part of a decade now, the current-generation Sienna is a top choice in its segment thanks to its high-quality interior and available all-wheel drive. Older Siennas are also desirable for their cavernous cargo areas and excellent passenger safety scores. Keep in mind that first-generation Siennas seated only seven, the seats didn't fold flat, and its smaller size relative to later models meant passenger space was a little cramped. The newest one is the most capable and stylish yet, but just about any year of Sienna comes recommended.
Current Toyota Sienna
The Toyota Sienna is sold in five primary trims: base L, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. There are also Premium versions of the SE, XLE and Limited. Feature highlights for the Sienna L include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a central touchscreen and a four-speaker audio system. The LE adds items such as power-sliding rear doors, a larger touchscreen and an upgraded audio system. The SE is the only Sienna with sporty exterior treatments and firmer suspension tuning, but it also comes with a power liftgate, heated front seats and leather upholstery. The XLE does without the sporty looks and ride, but it includes the SE's additional features plus power-opening rear windows and keyless entry and ignition.
There are also Premium versions of the SE and XLE that add a sunroof, navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system. The Limited boasts most of the above features, plus dual sunroofs, a power-folding third-row seat and premium audio. The Limited Premium includes xenon headlights and the rear-seat entertainment system.
Unlike previous model years, only one engine is offered with the current Toyota Sienna: a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 296 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. This powerful V6 gets the Sienna moving with authority while managing to achieve respectable fuel economy numbers. An eight-speed automatic is standard. Notably, the Sienna is the only minivan on the market to offer an all-wheel-drive option for those who drive in inclement weather. It's available on LE, XLE and Limited trims.
In reviews, we've been impressed with the Toyota Sienna's versatile interior, although the dashboard materials and design are less impressive than what you'll find in the Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica. 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, third-generation Toyota Sienna debuted for the 2011 model year. It improved upon its predecessor with better fuel economy, an easy-folding third row, and a sporty SE trim that allowed it to compete with the Honda Odyssey as the driver's choice in the minivan segment. Naturally, the Sienna stepped up its tech game with expanded availability of advanced safety options and a widescreen rear display that offers a split-screen feature for kids who can't agree on a movie.
The current Sienna has enjoyed several notable updates since its introduction. For the first two years of its production run, a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque was offered as a base engine. We suggest going with the available V6 since the four cylinder's power was merely adequate and its fuel economy advantage over the larger engine was meager. The '15 Sienna saw a slightly refreshed exterior, retuned suspension, stronger body structure, and upgrades to interior design and materials quality. In '17, the V6 received a power bump from 266 hp and 245 lb-ft to 296 hp and 263 lb-ft, and the six-speed automatic was replaced by an eight-speed unit.
The previous, second-generation Sienna was produced from 2004 to '10. We would recommend looking at 2005 and newer models (built after February 2005) because 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 to '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 hp in 2006; acceleration and performance were unaffected, however. From 2007 to '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. Besides its 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 to 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 since a small percentage of Siennas from this era were susceptible to engine problems when not treated to regular oil changes.