2020 Toyota Sienna: old school minivan still worthy

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It seems like a sports car should be named after a city in Italy, not a minivan. But Toyota’s adult-aged family hauler has grown into being worthy of its namesake, the medieval city in Tuscany.

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Siena is known for its sturdy, gothic brick buildings and historic districts. The 23-year-old Sienna is ancient by minivan standards and is holding up well despite declining sales and the dominance of lights truck and sport utility vehicles.

The 2020 Toyot Sienna minivan is in its ninth year of its current generation. It's an old school with some upgrades.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna minivan is in the ninth year of its current generation. It’s an old school minivan with some upgrades.

The 2020 Toyota Sienna is a comfortable people hauler. It’s quick for its size, comfortable and versatile with several seat configuration options. The Sienna is also the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.

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A few refinements advance this year’s model from the 2019 offering, but the Sienna largely remains the same. It’s now in the ninth year of its current generation. Few vehicles last six years per generation.

Available in five main trims, the SE, XLE and Limited editions are also offered with sub-trims. The reviewed SE trim is sportier than its siblings. All Siennas are powered by a 296-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

While SUVs have flourished, minivans have been cast aside as stodgy and staid. The Sienna had Northern American sales of 137,497 in 2015 but stumbled to 73,585 last year. The major decline isn’t warranted.

Three-seat configuration in SUVs isn’t always efficient and nor is the third row often size-worthy for adults. The Sienna can be arranged for seven of eight passengers and with manual or power operation. It’s worthy to have options, particularly if usable by all.

While not light, the second row of seats is removable and the third row recedes into the floor. The result is a vast cargo area. Toyota’s seat design also includes a worthy “hidden” seat feature. It’s a small jump seat located between the second row of captain’s chairs.

Like other vans and SUVs, the Sienna features perched seating for the driver and front passenger. The overall vision is excellent. The surrounding interior isn’t plush, rather it’s dominated by plastic. The retro look is extended to dash functions, engaged with physical buttons and knobs. They’re easily visible, big and easy to use.

There was a time when minivans were defined in part by barren interiors, with simplicity a worthy attribute and former “boxes on wheels” may not recover from a stigma of being “old school.” But it’s also not an accurate stigma.

Standard active safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning with steering assist. A 360-degree camera system, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are optional. Available entertainment features include a Wi-Fi hot spot and a rear-seat entertainment system.

The Toyota Sienna also includes the carmaker’s signature Toyota Safety Sense system. It provides front collision mitigation, lane departure warning and other modern driver-assist features. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa are also offered. Five USB ports are spread through the cabin. Ten cupholders are included with the seven-seat van, 12 with the eight-seater.

Fuel efficiency isn’t the minivan segment’s best trait. Front-wheel Sienna models are rated at 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 mpg on the freeway. All-wheel-drive models having ratings of 18 mpg in city driving, 24 mpg on the freeway. The MSRP for the tested all-wheel-drive offering is $46,388.

The Honda Odyssey has a more modern interior and the Chrysler Pacifica is available as a plug-in hybrid. But the Sienna shouldn’t be dismissed. It doesn’t exactly offer a serene ride. But it’s as comfortable as a minivan, meaning it warrants consideration as a long haul family transporter.

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