When it comes to a new vehicle purchase, few things matter as much as reliability. And if you’ve decided on a minivan, we’ve driven a lot of Toyota Siennas over the years and have heard it called the most reliable minivan many times.
The new Sienna Hybrid is the next evolution of the minivan — and the only hybrid minivan in Canada that’s available with all-wheel drive. After testing the 2021 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD, my kids want you to know just one thing: they STILL want me to trade in my CUV for a Sienna!
No word of a lie, every time we take a Sienna on a road trip or borrow one from Toyota to write a post like this one, my kids diss my vehicle and beg me to ask Toyota to let us keep the Sienna.
Every. Damn. Time.
That it might just be the most reliable minivan on the market or that the 2021 models come standard with self-charging hybrid technology is completely lost on them. They have been wooed by the spacious Captain’s seats they got to occupy and the rear-seat entertainment system with its fancy wireless headphones.
So, they have a point — but that’s hardly the full story.
The most reliable minivan: about the Sienna Hybrid
Available with All-Wheel-Drive and with seven- or eight-passenger seating, we tested one of the 10 available models in the 2021 lineup — specifically, the Toyota Sienna Hybrid Limited AWD 7-Passenger.
While it’s definitely the priciest of the bunch, it’s still less expensive than my CUV and absolutely crushes it on the features, spaciousness and overall family friendliness. Plus, many of the features I’m going to mention are also available on the less expensive models, too.
Let’s get to it. Welcome to the all-new, all-hybrid Toyota Sienna…
Bridge Console with Storage Compartment
One of the things I’ve always disliked about my CUV is that if someone sits in the passenger seat, there’s nowhere to put my purse or the cubby I like to keep handy with things like tissues, hand sanitizer, gum, etc. But the 2021 Sienna Hybrid saves the day with its massive open storage area between the driver and passenger seats.
The “Bridge Console” creates a regular console area with room for mobile devices, cup holders and more while keeping the lower area wide open and leaving plenty of room for even a big diaper bag.
The console is also so wide that you feel like you have plenty of elbow room between passenger and driver (especially if your passenger is 6’6” like mine).
7-in. colour TFT Multi Information Display / 9-in. Multi Media Display
Although the displays are smaller on the less expensive Sienna Hybrid models, I don’t really think this is a situation where size matters. The most impressive part of the Multi Media Display, in my opinion, is actually its touch sensitivity — which is as good as an iPad. It makes going back to my 2015 CUV pretty disappointing if I’m being honest.
Qi-compatible wireless charging tray with light indicator
If you’re accustomed to the convenience of a wireless charging pad at home, then you’ll be delighted to know there’s one in the Sienna Hybrid. My husband was able to throw his iPhone down on it to charge no problem, but if you have a POP Socket on the back of your phone like I do, you won’t have much luck. This is not solely a Sienna issue — it happens with every wireless charging tray.
Apple CarPlay compatibility
It’s pretty dreamy coming from a vehicle that’s not equipped with CarPlay to have everything from my Apple Music to my Waze GPS available right on the display. The technology is seamless between the two and I feel like I’m getting even more out of my iPhone thanks to CarPlay. Don’t worry — there’s Android compatibility, too.
The most reliable minivan’s Hybrid Synergy Drive/EV Mode
First, to ensure there’s no question about what “hybrid” even means when it comes to vehicles, it has two (or more) power sources, like a normal engine alongside an electric (EV) motor. They work together for improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system auto-switches between EV and engine power, adapting to specific driving conditions in real time and controlling the power that comes from each source. It intuitively tells the Sienna how to combine energy sources to get optimal efficiency.
So, let’s say you’re stuck in stop-and-go highway traffic during rush hour; the Sienna Hybrid’s engine charges the battery with the built-in generator. That generator can bypass the engine so the EV motor steps in to power the vehicle while you’re going slowly (and produce zero emissions while doing so). And when it’s time to speed up again, the conventional motor steps back in to take over. Smart, huh?!
And that’s also good news for your gas mileage. I drove around as I normally would for a week, taking my kids here and there, having driveway visits with grandparents, heading out to pick up groceries and party supplies for my kid’s 13th birthday, going to our local conservation area. All in all, it was a mix of slow community driving, country roads and some highway driving. In my CUV, that would typically represent half a tank of gas; but in the Sienna Hybrid, the needle barely moved and the tank remained mostly full for the entire week.
Since the EV motor is self-charging, I also never needed to worry about plugging in the vehicle.
10 freaking airbags in the Sienna Hybrid (hello, most reliable minivan for safety?!)
Yes, 10 — Including one just for the driver’s knee (what?!). Not that, knock on wood, I’ve ever had cause to use an airbag in my driving career, but it sure is nice piece of mind as a worry-wart mom knowing that if we were ever in a serious accident, we have all of those airbags working to protect us as much as possible.
There’s a rear camera washer
So you know on rainy days when muddy water covers your back-up camera? Yeah, you don’t need to worry about that anymore.
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection
This is something I use and love on my own vehicle and would never, ever turn off. Because, you know, sometimes you do end up driving on auto-pilot or your child distracts you and — sometimes — that means you drift or go over a line unintentionally. It happens. But with the lane-departure alerts, you can course-correct immediately. I think I even noticed a “buzzing” feeling in the Sienna Hybrid’s gas pedal when I went over a line without using my indicator, making the warning even stronger.
Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Bicycle Detection
This is very, very cool. You can watch the full video about this technology here, but in a nutshell, your Sienna Hybrid uses its dash-mounted camera and the sensors at the vehicle’s nose to monitor what’s ahead and help ensure that any people crossing in front of your path — on foot or on two wheels — are detected. You’ll be alerted to brake and the braking system can even apply a more forceful brake if needed.
Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
I’ve written about this feature before — in my Toyota Sequoia review — and I still love it. I use cruise control all the time to stop myself from speeding (see: lead foot), but without dynamic radar in play, it means you have to brake to slow down and then re-set your cruise control if a vehicle in front of you isn’t going as fast.
But with dynamic radar, your vehicle senses what’s happening in front of you and if the car ahead slows down, yours does too — without ever touching the brake or needing to adjust or resume the cruise control.
7 USB Charging Ports
Need I say more? I mean, if your family is as connected as ours, you know that if there’s room for seven people, each person probably needs his/her own charging port.
Third Row Foldable 60/40 Seats
Being able to fold down third-row seats is nothing special — I’ve been doing that in my CUV since I got it in 2015. But what I absolutely love about the foldable seats in the Sienna Hybrid is that you can not only fold them down but you can also choose to fold and STOW them in the trunk area.
And speaking of trunk space, I’ll just add that there’s a lot of it, which I really appreciated for groceries.
Oh, and my kids did like more than just the two things I noted in the beginning about the latest Sienna. They were also big fans of:
Power Dual Sliding Rear Doors
The K Man and Miss Q basically called my SUV doors “trash” after pushing the button or pulling the handle to automatically slide open the side doors of the Sienna Hybrid. Even though they’re big enough now to manage CUV doors, when I think back to their younger years, they could have gotten in and out of the Sienna much more easily.
Beyond convenience, though, what I have always preferred about minivans and children is that the doors slide rather than open into the vehicle next door. It would have saved me so many “be careful when you open the door!” warnings.
Second Row Long Slide Captain Seats
My kids are tall. And only getting taller by the day. The roomy Captain’s seats in the Sienna Hybrid have a VERY long track on which to slide, so even with my extremely tall husband in the passenger seat with his seat all the way back, my teenager still had lots of leg room to spare.
Second Row Sunshade on Sliding Doors
Miss Q noticed the sunshade on her window right away. She was excited that she could recline her seat so much, pull up the sunshade and dream of napping during a road trip. Part of this may be that we haven’t been on a road trip in so, so long…but she was pretty stoked about that sunshade.
So many cup holders
Get this: six front cup holders, six second-row cup holders and three third-row cup holders! The Sienna Hybrid is the Oprah of cup holders (YOU get a cup holder! And YOU get a cup holder! And YOU get a cup holder!).
The nav system
I remember driving an earlier Toyota Sienna and the nav system really threw me for a loop. The voice commands weren’t intuitive and the default setting didn’t point in the direction I was headed, but followed a north-facing on-screen map route.
Well, I’m thrilled to report that the 2021 Sienna Hybrid has a stellar navigation system that makes sense, is easy to use and operates the way you’re used to with Waze, Apple or Google Maps. In fact, it’s so good that you can say something like “I need directions to Baskin Robbins” and it’ll offer you the closest Baskin Robbins locations. Or you can be as specific as “Get directions to 1 Toyota Place in Scarborough” — without needing to pause for more instructions to drill down to the city like I do in my vehicle — and your route will load.
But what’s the most reliable minivan missing?
Because you know I’m not about to gloss over where I think improvements could be made, right? Right. Well, there doesn’t seem to be an option for a heated steering wheel. After having one in my own vehicle for the last six years, I can tell you this is one upgrade that I would dearly miss on those cold winter mornings.
I also think the third row foldable seats could be easier to use. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they’re counterintuitive or super challenging to pull down, stow and then pop back up again, but they’re awkward. Maybe over time with lots of repetition that would disappear.
Strangely, there isn’t a temporary spare tire provided in all of the models — including the most expensive ones. Odd, no?
Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a built-in WiFi option. My husband’s latest vehicle has this and we love it for longer trips with the kids who will happily YouTube their way to our destination.
The most reliable minivan: AWD Toyota Sienna specs & pricing
I write this every time I create a post about a vehicle or anything vehicle-related: I am NOT a car writer. I like cars. I like driving. But am I going to be able to tell you the difference between an alternator and suspension? No.
Like wine, I know what I like and why I like it. As I drive from point A to B, I know how responsive the vehicle’s brakes are, how well it accelerates and what it feels like underneath me. I can appreciate how quiet some vehicles are on the highway. I know if I’m filling up the gas tank too often. And I have an affinity for the bells and whistles inside that make the ride more comfortable.
At the end of the day, vehicles and vehicle jargon are complex. So I’m simply going to cut and paste the key features and price of the AWD Toyota Sienna that I test drove and let you wade through it:
The Sienna Hybrid Limited AWD 7-Passenger has a starting MSRP of $58,190 and here are a few key things it comes with:
- Toyota’s electronic on-demand all-wheel-drive system
- Seven-person seating generously appointed with premium features and amenities
- 2.5 Litre 4-cylinder DOHC 16-Valve, Hybrid Synergy Drive
- 10 airbags
- Push-button start
- 18” alloy wheels
- Premium audio with remote an 9” Display Screen, which adds embedded navigation and Destination Assist (1-year trial)
- 12-speaker JBL audio system
- Leather seating with a driver’s seat memory system
- Heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats
- Rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones with a wireless charging system
- Premium LED headlamps and tail lamps
- LED fog lamps
- Digital display rear-view mirror
- A wireless charging system for personal electronics
- The bird’s-eye view camera and intelligent clearance sonar system with rear cross-traffic brake
For an even more detailed breakdown — especially if you are the kind of person who understands all the complex terminology — you can read more about the Sienna Hybrid and compare its models here.
But is the Sienna Hybrid really the most reliable minivan?
Obviously, I don’t actually own the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid and can’t really tell you after only one week of driving it whether or not it’s hands-down the most reliable minivan on the market. But if you talk to Toyota fans — and they’re a loyal bunch — you’ll hear time and again that they’ve driven their vehicles into the ground…and they keep on running.
Anecdotally, I’ve talked to owners who’ve said they took their Toyota beyond 250,000 and even more than 300,000 kilometres — all on the same engine and transmission.
Toyota’s track record is solid. You’ll get lots of features with good value and a brand that stands behind its vehicles. Reliability seems to be the name of the game.
Since the first time we toured around in an AWD Toyota Sienna a few years ago, I’ve always said that it would be the minivan that could lure me away from the CUV/SUV category that I’ve been driving most of my adult life. If the Sienna Hybrid isn’t poised to be the most reliable minivan out there, I don’t know what is.
DISCLAIMER: Toyota Canada compensated me for this post and loaned me a vehicle to facilitate an honest experience. My opinions and observations shared here are my own.