2021 Toyota Sienna walkaround: 10 must-know minivan facts

Big on tech and sanity-saving features, Toyota's new family-minded minivan is also a hybrid for max efficiency.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
6 min read

There's a new minivan in town, and it looks mighty impressive. The redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna appears ready to put the hurt on Chrysler's stylish Pacifica and the excellent , thanks to its fresh features, luxury touches and class-slaying fuel economy.

If you can get past this not-so-mini minivan's garish front end, there's plenty to enjoy, from this Toyota's super-comfortable second-row captain's chairs and thoughtful interior features to its standard hybrid drivetrain. Upping the luxury factor, you can even get a mini refrigerator in it. How cool is that (no pun intended)? Here are 10 important things you should know about the 2021 Toyota Sienna:

TNGA-K platform

The 2021 Sienna minivan is now based on Toyota's TNGA-K platform and is closely related to the Japanese automaker's Highlander SUV. From the instrument panel forward, it is very similar, though aft of that, things get substantially different. This new and very safe foundation helped company engineers push the floor around 1.5 inches lower compared to the outgoing Sienna, which makes for easier entry and exit. Extended-length grab handles aid in this area as well.

Not everyone will love the 2021 Sienna's styling. It has a lot of grille -- like, a lot -- and some other unusual elements. With this overhaul, designers are trying to give the new model added street presence, especially a more athletic stance. For SUV-like proportions, the hood is raised, and the A-pillars are shifted rearward. The vehicle's roofline also tapers toward the back, and there's more tumblehome (how much the side windows angle inward at the top), a move that adds extra style while improving crosswind resistance.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum is a surprisingly lux family cruiser

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Captain on the bridge

The Sienna's looks are certainly controversial, but by contrast, nearly everyone will appreciate this minivan's interior. There are interesting materials inside, and the overall design is highly functional, with plenty of storage space and some clever features. One of the most interesting and novel cabin elements is the Sienna's new bridge-like center console, which extends between the front seats. There's a large bin underneath and a large cubby on the dashboard, a change made possible in part by a new gear selector. Paradoxically, when tucked behind the wheel, this van manages to seem both cozy and airy at the same time, an unexpected feeling, but a good one.

Hybrid only

engineers have ditched the outgoing Sienna's V6. In its place is a familiar hybrid powertrain, one built around a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. With a small battery pack mounted under the front seats and a couple of motor-generators functioning that do double-duty as a continuously variable transmission, this combination delivers a respectable 243 horsepower. Yes, that's about 40 fewer ponies than you get in either a Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica, but the trade-off is dramatically enhanced fuel economy. 

This Toyota is expected to average around 33 miles per gallon in mixed driving, significantly more than its conventionally powered rivals and even a few mpg better than the plug-in hybrid Pacifica. The model also features an EV mode that allows you to drive very short distances purely on electricity. For added peace of mind, all of the Sienna's hybrid-related components, including the battery pack, are covered by a 10-year/150,000-mile warranty.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum engine
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2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum engine

The new Sienna gets you 243 horsepower and an estimated 33 miles per gallon combined. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

All-wheel drive is on the menu

For extra confidence in challenging conditions, the 2021 Toyota Sienna can be had with all-wheel drive. In fact, it's available across the board on every grade. Unlike more traditional systems, this one is electric and on demand. A separate motor powers the rear wheels as needed, and while taking off from a stop, this power source can send up to 80% of its driving force to those rear tires.

Sienna offers a 1,500-watt power inverter

Aside from added efficiency and the ability to drive short distances on electricity, another feature the Sienna's hybrid drivetrain enables is a potent power inverter. With 1,500 watts of juice, this van's 120-volt plugs allow you to run a coffee pot, a small refrigerator or even an electric saw to cut some lumber you just picked up from your local big-box store. Of course, if you're not interested in construction work, the Sienna can also, for instance, help keep a slow cooker nice and hot during the long drive to grandma's house on Thanksgiving. The possibilities are nearly endless. In comparison, Sienna Chief Engineer Monte Kaehr tells me the biggest power inverter Toyota offers in a non-hybrid vehicle is found in the 4Runner SUV, and it delivers a comparatively paltry 400 watts -- less than a third of what this minivan offers.

First-class seating

Providing unparalleled comfort, the Sienna's available Super Long Slide second-row captain's chairs adjust fore and aft by a whopping 25 inches. The second-row seats in lesser models still slide an impressive 15 inches. This adjustability gives passengers vast amounts of legroom, but that's not all. Those chairs are also heated and come with integrated ottomans that pop up and slide out. Sadly, ventilation isn't available, but you still won't find more seating comfort in a vehicle this side of a Boeing 777's business-class cabin.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum - Super Long Slide second-row seats
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2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum - Super Long Slide second-row seats

These second-row captain's chairs are incredibly comfortable. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Steerage ain't bad, either

The Sienna's third-row seat is comfortable, too. At 6- feet tall, I fit very well back there, with plenty of room for my head and legs, plus the lower cushion is at a favorable height above the floor. Interestingly, Toyota engineers have been able to reduce the mass of this seat by half, according to Kaehr. The frame is now a one-piece affair made of resin as opposed to the steel unit in the outgoing model that was made up of 15 separate pieces. This change makes the Sienna's third-row seat much easier to fold flat into the floor and lift again. It requires only 19 pounds of force to raise, compared to the old design that took a whopping 53 lbs.

Keep your cool

Aside from those super-comfortable second-row captain's chairs, the Sienna's available refrigerator/freezer is another thing that should help make it an exemplary family road-trip machine. This insulated bin at the back of the center console is large enough to accommodate six half-liter water bottles. Of course, it's also the perfect place to stash a pile of push-pops, fudge-sicles or anything else you want to keep frozen.

It can haul 4-by-8 sheets of building material, with a caveat

If there's a downside to the Sienna's fancy captain's chairs, it's that they're not removable, nor do they fold into the floor like Chrysler's innovative Stow 'n Go system. Their lower cushions do, however, flip upward, which allows the seats themselves to slide right up against the front buckets. However, all that origami is still not quite enough to allow the Sienna to transport 4-by-8 sheets of plywood or drywall flat on the floor, though it can fit them. They have to be slid in at an angle and slot between the second-row chairs, which is a bit more difficult.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum - rear three-quarter view
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2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum - rear three-quarter view

Not everyone will love the Sienna minivan's styling, though the rear may be its least-controversial angle.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Toyota's 2021 Sienna really sucks!

To help keep life's messes in check, the new Sienna offers an integrated vacuum cleaner. This is nothing new, in fact, the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey have offered one for years. However, unlike those rivals, Toyota engineers have mounted the Sienna's vacuum underneath the console. According to Kaehr, this central location was chosen for several reasons. For starters, it's more convenient to use, but the rear cargo area is also pretty tight on space as it also houses climate-control hardware, the spare tire and the vehicle's 12-volt battery, so a vac likely wouldn't have fit there very well.

The redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna is scheduled to begin arriving at dealerships in November. Pricing for this reborn Swagger Wagon has not been announced, but even with its new hybrid powertrain and additional equipment, the fourth-generation Sienna's base MSRP will probably be pretty similar to today's model, which starts at around $33,000 delivered. That said, expect the new-for-2021 range-topping Platinum trim seen here to be significantly more expensive than that.