2015 Toyota Sienna: no more minivan stigma

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Minivans get a bad rap. They’re boxes on wheels. They’re only for soccer moms. Neither criticism seems fair to me, and one reason is the 2015 Toyota Sienna.

Manufactured since 1997 when it replaced the Toyota Previa, the 2015 Toyota Sienna has been refreshed in the fourth year of the third generation introduced in 2011.

Among the most versatile and safe vehicles available, the Toyota Sienna received a new tail light and interior design refresh. The Sienna SE reverted to the original pre-facelift “sport” tail lights and Sky Blue Pearl, Creme Brulee Metallic and Attitude Black Metallic are new exterior color choices.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

My weekly driver was the Toyota Sienna SE, the eight-seater and one of five main available trims. It also featured the Premium sub-trim. While other trims are available in seven or eight-passenger configuration, the SE is only available with the eight-passenger option. The seven-passenger configuration includes second-row captain’s chairs.

The 2015 Toyota Sienna has been refreshed inside and outside.
The 2015 Toyota Sienna has been refreshed inside and outside. Images © James Raia/2015

 

All trims come standard with front-wheel drive, but the LE, XLE and Limited are also available with all-wheel drive.

One of the Sienna’s best attributes is a Toyota trait — lots of standard equipment. The SE model takes the long laundry list of features from the L and LE models and adds a significant stockpile of sporty upgrades.

Consider: 19-inch alloy wheels, a unique front fascia (with foglights, LED running lights and mesh inserts) and lower-body skirting. The SE also has sportier suspension tuning, a power liftgate, perforated leather upholstery (for rows one and two; row three gets leatherette premium vinyl), heated front seats and unique gauges with a larger multipurpose display.

The SE Premium adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic warning systems, a navigation system, Entune smartphone app integration, rear-seat entertainment system (with HDMI inputs, RCA jacks, a DVD player and a large screen that can be split to display two different sources) and the Driver Easy Speak system, which broadcasts the driver’s voice through the rear speakers.

As a minivan loaded with safety and technology equipment, the Toyota Sienna, like the Honda Odyssey, its main competitor, no longer has any relation to the stodgy reputation of minivans of yesteryear.

The Toyota Sienna further defines the new minivan when it’s driven. The 3.5-liter, V6 with 266-horsepower features a six-speed automatic transmission. The shift knob is ideally placed low and on slight angle on the console for easy access.

Considering it’s a minivan, the Sienna accelerates and arrives at highway speed steadily and quietly. It’s surprisingly agile during U-turns, maneuvering around in tight driveways or weaving past tight spot on urban city streets. The Sienna was never cumbersome.

The Sienna, like other minivans, features high seating. It has a smaller, compact hood and thus good front and overall vision. The automatic sliding side doors and tail lift and the easily sliding second row of seats further add to the vehicle’s appeal.

Likes:

Smooth, strong V6 engine.
Well-designed interior with intuitive controls.
Vivid navigation system display
Console shelf under lighting.

Dislikes:

Takes some muscle to maneuver heavy third-row seats.
Hard to access USB port.
Second row of seats don’t fold to the floor.

Facts & Figures: 2015 Toyota Sienna

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, unavailable.
Airbags: 8.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (highway), 21 mpg (combined), six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 266.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $39,680.00.
Manufacturer’s Website: www.toyota.com.
Price As Tested: $41,184.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“This mid-cycle refresh includes substantial improvements to the interior’s quality, ergonomics and design. Taken together this round of upgrades to the 2015 Toyota Sienna further elevates its position as one of our top-recommended minivans.” — Edmunds.

“Now, the 2015 Toyota Sienna is even more enticing thanks to a revised interior and a host of new features that leave us appreciating the van more than ever. We’re still not sure if we’d buy the latest Sienna over the Odyssey, though.” — AutoTrader.

“Up-to-date in terms of infotainment and connectivity, quiet, comfortable, roomy, versatile-the 2015 Sienna has an almost bewildering array of appealing attributes. It’s not the class athlete, but, as ever, it’s a strong candidate for most likely to succeed.” — Car and Driver.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Comfortable, versatile and spacious, the 2015 Toyota Sienna is among the most versatile people movers on the road. It’s a family car, but it’s just as suitable for a one or two-person family who needs space for whatever it hauls around, bicycles to pets to hobby supplies.”

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