All-New, All-Hybrid Family-Friendly Minivan
Story and photos by John Faulkner.
Toyota long ago made a commitment to hybrids, with the Prius being the most successful result of the company’s commitment to combining electricity and gasoline. Toyota and its upmarket Lexus division have 16 hybrid models, making the combined nameplates the leader in hybrid offerings.
To further its electrification commitment, Toyota has released two 2021 hybrid-only models–the Venza crossover and the Sienna minivan. Clean Fleet Report reviewed the former model highly.
Next up for 2021 is the all-new Sienna Hybrid minivan, which previously was powered only by a gasoline V6. Now, the 2021 Sienna, like the Venza, is only available as a hybrid. Clean Fleet Report found the 2020 Sienna to be roomy for both people and their things, but not very fuel efficient, which the all-new Sienna addresses in a big way.
Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to spend a week in the 2021 Sienna Hybrid, putting it through its paces of what it was built to do: be a family hauler in a city and exurban environment.
Smooth Power and Fuel Sipping
Clean Fleet Report drove the front- wheel drive 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE powered by Toyota’s hybrid system–a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, non-turbocharged engine and two electric motors, producing 245 total system horsepower. Power is sent to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with driving modes of Eco, Normal, Sport and EV. This system automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine and gasoline-only engine power. If your driving conditions include ice, snow or heavy rain, the optional all-wheel drive Sienna may be a major consideration when looking at a minivan.
Using 87 octane fuel, the engine and transmission combination earned an EPA fuel economy rating of 36 mpg city/36 highway/36 combined. Yep, the only place you will find all three the same is on a hybrid. In 313 miles of driving through Southern California we averaged 35.6 miles per gallon, but a 135-mile all-freeway trip, with the adaptive cruise control set to 65 miles per hour, we achieved 36.9 mpg. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
The nickel metal hydride battery is charged when applying the brakes or coasting. The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.
Where the Sienna Hybrid shines is seeing how efficient the computer combines electricity and gasoline. The seamless and smooth Toyota Hybrid System II is sensitive to even the slightest fluctuation in road inclines and declines, more-so than the driver can feel. A green EV icon on the gauge cluster goes on and off as the system imperceptibly saves gasoline by using electricity.
Hitting the Road
The hybrid system was smooth, with the CVT programmed to err on the side of fuel efficiency. With 0-60 in 8.6 seconds, opt for the driver-selectable Sport mode setting for a bit more performance. Otherwise, Eco was more than adequate for cruising along at-or-above highway speeds, and Normal for around town. Fill the Sienna with five or six people and their stuff, then add-in the 4,675-pound curb weight, maybe hook-up trailer (it has a 3,500-pound maximum tow rating), and the Sienna will need all the torque provided by the hybrid drive system.
The 2021 Sienna Hybrid XSE delivered a smooth, solid and quiet ride in town and on the freeway, but when pushed hard, the engine sounded strained. Straight line cruising is where the Sienna shines with stable and confident road manners.
The suspension soaked-up road imperfections very well, with the low ride height of 6.3 inches dropping the center of gravity. Keep in mind the known handling limitations of a minivan were present, but also remember the Sienna is not marketed as a sports minivan. Is there such a thing? The all-season 235/50 Michelin Primacy tires, mounted on 20-inch six-spoke alloy wheels, provided good grip and were unaffected by Southern California’s grooved concrete freeway pavement. The power-assisted, ventilated four-wheel anti-lock brakes were aided by brake assist, traction and electronic stability control for even and controlled stops. The overall drivability and behind-the-wheel time in the Sienna was a good experience.
All-new for 2021, the Sienna takes design queues from the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV with narrow, swept back LED headlights, distinctive daytime running lights and a large grille. The Sienna has a power lift gate, and power side sliding doors that can be operated by the key FOB, dash button, or simply tugging lightly on the door handle.
The Sienna has more style than the outgoing model, with the lower ride height giving it a racier look. Available in nine colors including Midnight Black Metallic, Celestial Silver Metallic, Super White, Blizzard Pearl and Sunset Bronze Mica. Clean Fleet Report’s Sienna XSE was in an eye-catching Ruby Flare Pearl with a black rear lower fascia, front grille and black wheels.
Interior Space Is the Key
The 2021 Sienna has found its sweet spot for passengers and cargo. Clean Fleet Report drove the Sienna XSE with a Moonstone and Gray Flannel SofTex colored interior. While the Moonstone is actually closer to a white that was too bright for our liking, the red and white top stitching was attractive and offered a nice contrast.
The three-row configuration of 2+2+3 had second-row Captain’s Chairs that cannot be removed, but they do recline and slide up-to 25 inches for excellent leg room and easy third row access. Headroom throughout the cabin was generous. There are HVAC controls and vents for the second-row passengers, who will also appreciate the ceiling-mounted flip down Blu-Ray screen, the side window shades and the power moonroof.
The driver and front passenger get heated seats, with the driver getting eight-way power (with lumbar) and the passenger four-way adjustable. The tall seating position gave a commanding look onto the road from front seats that were comfortable and supportive. The second- and third-row seats are covered in SofTex, with the third row having a trick, one motion stow and spit feature activated by a release handle in the far rear cargo area. The second- and third-row passengers can view videos on the optional rear facing, HD 10.6-inch 1080p entertainment system, which comes with a wireless remote and two wireless headphones. The system can be connected to an iPhone through a HDMI cord or wirelessly to an Android phone.
The cockpit layout is simple and clean, with plenty of soft touch materials on the dash and door panels. The easy-to-find and reach cruise, telephone and audio controls are housed on the leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, while the large round gauges were easy-on-the-eyes with white faces and black numbers. Cup holders seem to be everywhere in the cabin; we counted 18, so there will be no excuse for anyone becoming parched.
The dominant feature is the larger-than-most center console with a unique satin grain surface pattern. The flying bridge designed console has cup holders, storage cubbies, and a large underneath storage area. Up front, the 10-inch color head-up display, which is an adjustable virtual floating information screen projected on the windshield before the driver, was very helpful by showing the speedometer, navigation, hybrid system information, driver assist and cruise control data.
Sounds and Space
Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of the radio as it had volume and channel knobs to control the 9.0-inch color touchscreen, which housed the premium 1,200-watt JBL sound system. This 12-speaker system, with a subwoofer and amplifier, delivered excellent sounds for the AM/FM/HD Radio, with SiriusXM, and wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. Connectivity and power were through multiple USB ports, 120-volt power outlets and a 1,500-watt inverter. The Bluetooth streaming audio worked well, as did the hands-free telephone voice recognition. The Wi-Fi Connect through AT&T, which is on a 90-day trial and comes with 2GB of data use, is a must for keeping those second-row passengers occupied (and quiet) on long family road trips.
The list of convenience features on the Sienna XSE is what you would expect, including a smart key with push-button start, four-zone automatic climate system with air filter, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, anti-theft engine immobilizer and a tire pressure monitoring system. The power twin sliding doors and power lift gate are very helpful, as are the power exterior mirrors and windows.
If you are in the market for a minivan, then your hauling needs must be a big part of your life. And where else to go but a vehicle that can accommodate up-to eight people and their luggage or swallow-up a 4×8-foot sheet of plywood?
The 2021 Sienna comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 advanced driving system. This includes dynamic radar cruise control with lane tracing assist, automatic front braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert and automatic high beams. The surround view camera is a big help when parking or backing-up. The Sienna has ten airbags, consisting of front and second row, driver knee, and side curtain airbags with roll sensors.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2021 Sienna comes in LE, XSE, XLE, and Limited trim levels, in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Base prices, including the $1,175 delivery, processing and handling fee, range from $35,635 to $51,635. Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE FWD, with $3,668 in optional equipment and the $1,175 delivery, processing and handling fee, had an MSRP of $46,843.
The 2021 Sienna comes with these warranties.
Comprehensive – Three years/36,000 milesPowertrain – Five years/60,000 milesHybrid Battery – 10 years/150,000 milesHybrid System – Eight years/100,000 milesRoadside Assistance – Two years/25,000 milesComplimentary Maintenance – Two years/25,000 milesCorrosion Perforation – Five years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Hybrid
Have you ever said “I will never drive a minivan?” If you have a constant need for a vehicle that can comfortably seat up-to eight and has impressively large storage capacity, it may be time to drop your bias against these versatile people movers and see if it belongs in your driveway.
Oh, and don’t forget all those fuel efficient driving miles with the proven Toyota hybrid technology. Who would have thought 36+ miles per gallon was possible for a vehicle this size? The 2021 Sienna hybrid is the real deal. Go check it out.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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