Toyota began the week with a reveal event at its US headquarters in Plano, Texas. Here it debuted two new models: the 2021 Sienna minivan and 2021 Venza crossover.
The Sienna was the expected debut, after a promotional image for the event showed off the minivan ahead of schedule last week. For this fourth generation of Toyota’s people mover, the Japanese brand is going all-in on its hybrid technology.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Toyota Sienna Review
Yes, every 2021 Sienna trim will be available only as a hybrid. The system itself appears largely the same as the 2020 Highlander Hybrid’s, which shares its TNGA-K platform with the Sienna. The setup includes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a nickel-metal hydride battery, and a pair of electric motors. This makes the Sienna the first new four-cylinder minivan in over a decade.
Combined output is 243 horsepower, around 50 ponies short of today’s V6 model. However, Toyota is targeting a 33 mpg average for the new Sienna, which should make up for the loss of shove. The maximum towing rating sits at 3500 lb, identical to the Highlander. Warranty coverage for all Toyota hybrid components lasts 8 years/100,000 miles.
Also like its crossover sibling, the Sienna will continue to offer all-wheel drive. The on-demand system uses a dedicated rear electric motor to power the rear wheels only when needed, such as on takeoff. It will remain a unique selling point in the class: the redesigned 2021 Chrysler Pacifica offers both a (plug-in) hybrid and all-wheel drive, but not in the same package.
The move to the brand’s primary platform also brings the standard fitment of Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. The suite includes emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure assist, lane trace assist, dynamic cruise control (including road sign recognition), and auto high beams. The 2021 Sienna also includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear seat reminder on all trims too. 10 airbags are standard.
Toyota claims the 2021 Sienna’s exterior styling is crossover inspired. Our first impression, at least via video, is mixed: we like the nod to the Highlander in the strong shoulder line, but the Supra-aping fake vents under the taillights are heavy-handed. It certainly looks lower and more dramatic in profile compared to the aging current model, which went into production a decade ago.
The interior of a minivan is arguably more important for the target audience, however. The base LE and select XLE trims will stick to an eight-seat layout, while higher trims offer seating for seven. The latter uses what Toyota calls Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs, offering 25 inches of movement fore and aft. Front-drive Limited and Platinum trims go one step further by offering ottomans.
The Sienna LE and some XLE models come equipped in eight-seat configurations with two captain chairs, a long slide second row seat and a stowable middle seat. Some XLE models, as well as the XSE, Limited and Platinum are seven-seat models featuring the Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs with the Limited and Platinum FWD models equipped with ottomans. Unfortunately there still doesn’t seem to be a fold-flat option for the second row, which hampers the Sienna’s ability to easily switch to load-lugging duty.
Standard fittings include seven USB ports and 18 (!) cupholders. Powered sliding doors are standard across the board, with the XLE and above offering hands-free opening with a shake of your leg. The base LE includes three-zone climate control, with the options list including heated seats and a powered sunroof. The latter two features are standard on the XLE and above, alongside four-zone climate control.
The higher Limited and Platinum trims include such goodies as leather seats, a built-in vacuum, head-up display, bird’s eye view camera, and 20-inch alloy wheels. A built-in fridge is even included on the Platinum. Options for these two trims include a digital rearview mirror and rear-seat entertainment.
Minivans continue to see their market share decrease in the face of crossovers. Toyota is the latest marque looking to fight that off by grafting select crossover traits onto the its people mover. Will the 2021 Sienna’s tougher looks, all-wheel drive, and hybrid power work in its favor? We’ll find out later this year when it finds its way into showrooms.